Explore the Uniquely Cuban Music Known As Rumba
On November 30, legendary folkloric group Yoruba Andabo ("friends of Yoruba culture") presents an evening of Cuban rumba. With singers, percussionists, and dancers, Yoruba Andabo performs ecstatic percussion-driven dances that reveal the ongoing influence of African religion and traditions in contemporary Cuba.
The Cuban rumba (not to be confused with the ballroom rhumba popularized in the United States in the 1950s and '60s) is the purest expression of Afro-Cuban culture. A battery of drums and bells accompany a lead vocalist and chorus with dancers creating a hypnotic and dizzying pulsing web of sound that clearly betrays its African origins. While it shares features with African religious santería ceremonies of Cuba, rumba itself is not religious. Rumba instead began—and remains to this day—an informal street dance and music, which emerged from poorer black neighborhoods in the cities of Havana and Matanzas in the 19th century.
Today rumba is universally recognized as Cuba's national dance music, a rich musical tradition that has given birth to the Cuban son, mambo, cha-cha-cha and countless other Latin-influenced music styles from around the world.
In these excerpts from the documentary Roots of Rhythm, Harry Belafonte examines the origins of the "uniquely Cuban music known as rumba," tracing its back to the historic Havana neighborhood of Belén.