Cuba and Its Amazing History

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Cuba's Influence on Music: A Melting Pot of Cultures

Cuba is located in the Caribbean islands and has had a significant influence on many musical styles over the previous 200 years. By the 17th century, Cuba had become a melting pot of various cultures. African and European traditions collided on a neutral ground, where melodies, rhythms, and musical forms inevitably interchanged. Different genres arose as a result of mutual transculturation, including Danza, conga, habanera, son, danzon, Criolla, trova, guajira, and contradanza (Farr 36). Early visits to Cuba affected the evolution of music and culture from its founding Indian tribe to a blend of various traditions. The Cuban music is inimitable and intermingles with other cultures to create intriguing and infused genres of great history. Music in Cuba is the evidence of the island's numerous evolution phases and experiences of the Cuban population over the years.

Origin and Development of Cuban Music and Culture

The music in Cuba was influenced by the four main ethnic groups that include Cuban natives who lived before the arrival of European under the leadership of Christopher Columbus. The Europeans settlers and fortune seekers conquered the Caribbean island. The enslaved Africans arrived in Cuba for centuries as laborers in large plantations. The last group influencing the music in Cuba was the Asian community. Asian influence may have been weak and probably overlooked but played a significant role in musical culture development.

The Influence of African and European Cultures

The musical influence from the native Cubans was quickly wiped out after the arrival of other groups and races. The Spaniards wiped out the music from Siboney and Taino. Conversely, the African and European cultures intensively introduced diverse and everlasting impact in Cuba. The European (particularly, the Spaniards) and Africans introduced their instruments, dances, and melodies to the new world. The cultures meeting on a neutral ground, therefore, created an inevitable mutual influence. The 'Cabildos' is the core of musical culture and identity of Afro- Cuba. The Cabildos is the social unification among the former slaves imported from other the African continent. The freed Africans living on the outskirts of the city resisted colonialism and formed their governing council or cabildos in the early 18th century. The different ethnic groups from Africa formed the councils. The council meetings organization and operation resembled a club where people played music, worshiped and offered help to the neediest while cementing the resistance movement.

The Influence of the Cabildos

The Cabilos formation comprised of Yoruba, Dahomey Congolese, and Fon. Similar, African religions transmitted in the different Cuban generation in Haiti, Brazil, and the nearby Islands. The Cabildos tries to maintain the cultures of the Africans people and continued even after the 1886 emancipation (Chambers 497). The musical innovation in Cuba rose from the transculturation or interplay between the African slaves working in large sugarcane plantations and small tobacco farms owned the Spaniards. The African population in Cuba and their descendants reconstructed several numbers of percussive instruments and corresponding rhythms. The Spanish guitar, musical composition, and European musical notations were instrumental in the growth of Cuban Music. The Cuban music was the marriage between African drums and Spanish guitar (Fernandez 112).

The Persistence of Afro-Cuban Culture

The politicians allowed the cabildos as a form of entertainment during carnivals and were part of singing and dancing group. However, the politicians banned the cabildos creating great uncertainty about the musical performances. The afro-Cuban showed persistence and played the music away from the public glare. The secret meetings created the early Son sounds. The Afro-Cuban culture proliferates during the slavery and colonial era. By the year 1930, the black musicians exceeded the white (Chambers 497).

Genres in Cuban Music and Culture


Son music was part of the sacred music of the Nigerian tribe Yoruba. The Africans arrived in Cuba in 1500s and continued to practice their religion and sacred music during the journey of slavery (Fernandez 112). The folkloric traditions involved very mysterious rituals of animal sacrifice and burnt offerings to the gods. The slaves were later coerced to convert to Catholicism but never relinquished their cultures. Spaniard-native Cuban's interactions gave birth to creolized Spanish. The interaction gave birth to animist religion combining Catholic and Yoruba rituals, Santeria (Fernandez 112). Therefore, the Son music style is greatly affected by African rhythms. Additionally, it is the national folk music in Cuba that involves heavy Salsa's tinges. The percussion and beat reminiscent the sounds of African rhythms but the instruments involved resemble the Spanish guitar.


Salsa has its roots in Afro-Cuban genre son Cuba. The salsa dance adopts any mood be it soft, romantic, reflective or spiritual, passionate or fierce, energetic or simply happy, gloomy and melancholic. The songs have the subliminal message intended to reach the audience. Underneath the fast-paced exotic rhythms and layers of percussive horns, there is a narration unveiling the realities Hispanic people and community experiences and social struggles (Henken 185). The songs are evidence of the persistent and fierce determination to traditional values and cultural roots. Therefore, salsa comprises of the Afro-Cuban and Spanish speaking history, religion, and culture (185).


The word Contradanza is a corruption of the Term 'country dance' and the musical dance originated in the United Kingdom. The French adopted the dance as the contradance. The dance gave birth to other popular dances after arriving in Cuba from Europe in the 18th century (Sublette 133). The dance involves communal sequence with the dancing figures observing a specific set of patterns. The master or the dance leaders set and select the figure patterns. The dance observes two parts of 16 bears each in a square format or in a line. The style and tempo of the dance were fairly fast and bright. The Cuban Creole continued where European, Africans and other immigrants from Brazil, Portico, and Argentina. The Creole combined Habanera or Tango differentiating it from European contradance. Subsequently, there were versions due to creolized dance include Cedazo, sostenido, and Paseo. Many of the musicians in this genre were mulatto or black freed slaves. The women in Havana engage in a furious dancing taste where they spend the whole night agitated, elevated, sweating and wild until dawn (Sublette 133).


Danzon was an elegant form of music and was once popular than Son in Cuban region. Danzon is a result of Cuban contradanza creolization and indicates the mark of changing the communal sequence to dance involving couples (Orovio 106). In early days couple could not dance facing each other, but the Danzon changed the pattern which was scandalous at the beginning. The Cuban Danzon resembled the walz dance which was ballroom dance where couples' movement on the dance floor was anti-clockwise (Orovio 58). However, the Danzon involved couples dancing but not far from each other. The initial danzon involved kettle-drums, brass and military bands. Later, development of Charanga changed the danzon popularity. The Charanga was practiced indoors and is still popular to date among the Cubans and the surrounding countries (Orovio 58). The charanga utilizes Cello, Paila Criolla, piano, flute, violins, guiro and double bass.


The congas in Cuba are Bantu speakers arriving from Congo. The assimilation of the population was quite fast compared to other African community in Cuba. Subsequently, the Conga religious traditions were neutralized to form the Cuban identity. In Bantu, Conga means tumult and song. Conversely, Mambo means prayer or conversing with gods in a sacred dance (Sublette 258). The songs comprised of great satirical elements disparate, nonsense or piques in English.

The Son, Danzon, Habanera, Mambo, Conga are forms of song and dance with varying themes. The popular music in Cuba continues to influence other countries. With its basis on salsa, the Cuban music influenced the development of Jazz, Western Africa Afrobeat, and Tango in Argentina and nuevo flamenco in Spain (Sublette 171). In the present day Cuba, reggaeton and rock idioms are becoming popular music. The government reluctantly embraces hip-hop as the latest genre. The authorities initially shunned hip-hop in Cuba because of affiliation to capitalism which is opposite of communism. The Cuban music continues to evolve with creolized fusion and nothing remains as original native traditions.


Music interlocks with its history and is part of a particular culture or country. The music from Cuba is one of the most popular and has different genres likened throughout the world. The creolized African and European genesis is the main reason for popularity. The many people early visit Cuba led to the development of music and culture from initial Indian origin to become a synthesis of various styles. Cuban life 'creolization' has been happening over the years. In the twentieth century, the elements of African music, dance, and belief were significantly integrated and became part of popular and folk songs.

Work Cited

Chambers, Glenn A. "The Rise of 'son' and the Legitimization of African-Derived Culture in Cuba, 1908-1940." Callaloo: a Journal of African-American and African Arts and Letters. 30.2 (2007): 497-50. Print.

Fernández, Raúl A. From Afro-Cuban Rhythms to Latin Jazz. Berkeley: Calif, 2006. Print.

Farr, Jory. Rites of Rhythm: The Music of Cuba. New York: ReganBooks, 2003. Print.

Henken, Ted. "From Son to Salsa: the Roots and Fruits of Cuban Music." Latin American Research Review. 41.3 (2006): 185-200. Print.

Orovio, Helio. Cuban Music from a to Z. London: Tumi Music Ltd, 2005. Print.

Sublette, Ned. Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2007. Print.

April 13, 2023

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