Rumba Rhythms

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Included rhythms in Afro Latin Drum Machine, for iOS


Singable and danceable genre, born from the Afro-Spanish side, with a special mark of the first element. It had its origin in the urban setting where the humble black population abounded (quarries, plots) and in the semi-rural, around the sugar mills. It is played by percussion drums ("tumba", "llamador" and "quinto") or simply wood (codfish box, box of candles); accompanied by claves and, sometimes, spoons. Group party. The African contribution is accentuated in the rhythmic. It lacks ritual elements, it's completely profane music. "Every rumba has a first part of singing, of an expressive character, a part in which the choir enters and, at the same time, the rumba is broken with the exit, in the circle of spectators, of a couple or a man alone (at Columbia). A series of rumbas that are attributed gi'an antiquity (they are called rumbas de tiempo "Spain") are highly mimetic in the couple's dances. A brief part of the song in which the singer raises his or her song, then begins the "capetillo" or alternation of solo and chorus. From the beginning, as soon as the singer has started singing, the other instruments are integrated.

The Clave frames the rhythm, followed by the bass drum, then the fifth, which is getting richer and richer in rhythmic watermarks, and the spoons," says Argeliers León, and later on, "A form that was reached at these parties was a slower rumba, where dancers adopted an old age attitude and imitated difficulty in their movements. This mode is called yamboo. The dancers, moreover, do not make the pelvic gesture possessive, vaccine°, so in the song is inserted the phrase: in the yambá is not vaccinated. The singing part is brief and is sometimes accompanied by a humming or Maleo called diana, which serves as a preparation for the formation of the choir." León says of the guaguancó, "The initial part of the song is extensive and takes on the character of a long story, almost always alluding to an event or a person, so it has a descriptive meaning of occasion.

The melodic line is more fluid, with some long, long sounds. Sometimes tenths are used, sometimes simple couplets or prose. In guaguancó the rhythm becomes more figurative and faster than in bamboo. The steps are more disjointed, and the couple begins a game of attraction and repulsion, of surrender and avoidance, of approach and flight, until the man, at the moment when the woman cannot make a gesture of covering herself, makes a pelvic blow forward." And regarding the columbia modality, the aforementioned musicologist expresses: "When the rumba is broken, a single man comes out to the bullring, dancing with acrobatic gestures, mostly taken from the dances of íremes or diablitos abakuá. The dancer makes gestures in front of the fifth, with whom he engages in a kind of rhythmic controversy." The rumba was taken, in a sophisticated way, to the Cuban vernacular theater.


It's a kind of original Cuban rumba. It fuses several Afro-Cuban rhythms known as rumbas. It is especially contagious, and is sung in Spanish. The tumbadora is the main instrument of the guaguancó, and is played with three of these drums, in addition to some sticks that strike on a wooden box.

It was founded in 1886 following the abolition of slavery and represents a mixture of Afro-Cuban rhythms.

The vast majority of the guaguancós were anonymous compositions. The oldest date from the end of the Spanish colonial era on the island and are known as "rumbas del tiempo de España". In spite of its purely African rhythms, the guaguancó reveals certain Spanish influences, especially in its flamenco manifestations and in the texts of the tenth peasants.

However, of all the variations of the rumba, it is the guaguancó that has a "purely urban" character, which developed mainly in Matanzas and Havana, and in some neighborhoods of the latter, such as Los Sitios, Carraguao and others. On the other hand, the guaguancó is, in certain aspects, a social chronicle, since in it events of daily life are narrated, not only what happens to man in his social relations, but also religious, political, health and many others.

The tempo of the guaguancó is slightly slower than that of the columbia and faster than the yambú. The rhythmic language of the drums in the guaguancó is not a direct quotation of any African expression; it is the result of the decanting by Cubans of surviving African materials.
Fernando Ortiz, placed the yuka and the yuka drumming as the probable direct antecedents of the rumba, and he warm up Ia as its oldest predecessor. But we must also mention the influence of the Abakuá march (of Carabalí origin) and the music of the Congos (Bantu), the latter even present in the instruments used to play the rumba. Moreover, certain Dahomeyan influences have been detected. As is known, the Haitian voodoo cult (of Dahomeyan origin left superficial traces in Cuba, but with the massive migration of the 19th century, this cult was also introduced, which was discovered by the traveller H. Piron in Santiago de Cuba, and some of whose rhythms persisted in French tomb societies.
It is possible that it has taken its name after years of existence, since a danzón called Guaguancó is known, which was danced in Havana in 1893. But everything seems to indicate that this variant of the rumba already existed with very definite characters: we know from Colonel Manuel Piedra Martel of the existence, at that time, of a guaguancó that was already very popular: You see, I don't cry, you see...

The typical structure of the guaguancó has been described as follows: first, an introduction, lullaby or target, made by the guide to establish the melodic line; then the theme, which is the central theme and can be sung by several voices; the chorus, sung by all those who are in the rumba; the inspiration, which is the improvisation of the guide (sometimes before the chorus has a tenth of a narrative character).

Guaguanco Habana

Variation of guaguanco in which the fifth improvises a departure from the standard rhythm.


Yambú has an urban character and is considered one of the oldest forms of this genre. It has its origin in the province of Matanzas but it is rather a product of the humble neighborhoods of its urban and suburban areas, it is a rumba of house, quarry or plot.
In Matanzas and its suburbs, the sides emerged, which were mainly groups made up of rumberos. Some names of these societies were El Bando Azul, Los Congos de Angunga, La Clave de Oro and La Nueva India, among others. It is characterized by a slower tempo, with more rhythmic and percussive playfulness. Yambú is not vaccinated, this is one of the elements that differentiate it from columbia and guaguancó. As for the instruments they use, they use the cajón, on which the salidor sits (it is a small cajon that is placed between their legs) and the claves that set the rhythm.

The structure of the yambú is similar to that of the other forms of the rumba. It starts with the typical keystroke and then the lalaleo or bull's-eye is sung (longer than in the guaguancó), followed by a brief part of singing, the chorus responds, the chorus comes on, and then the couple of dancers come out into the ring. Although its rhythm is slow, the way to sing it is later; the rhythm goes further back, slower, while the singing goes faster. A counterpoint is established between singing and rhythm. At first, the texts of the yambú were shorter, with a long mound; then there was a poem, making descriptions of something, telling a story. The yamboo song is very melodious; the melody in the yamboo is established by a counterpoint with the rhythmic base, which has a remarkable variety of accents.

The old sets of dressing rooms for the interpretation of the rumba yambú in the city of Matanzas used to be spontaneous and improvising; the side of a shop window, the bottom of a chair, a bottle of drink or the simple wall were used as a salidor. The touch or blow was produced with a tumbler, and the fifth (improviser) with a small cedar wooden drawer. The group was completed with a spoon player, struck like two sticks on a board on the thighs of the sitting player. The vocal part was limited to short melodies, intoned in central registers and in major mode. These were sung by a soloist and a choir, as a chorus, and the songs were very varied and simple.


The rural origin of this genre is undeniable. For the great dancers and musicians of Rumba, Columbia is the countryside, especially in Matanzas. Although inspired by the most varied of themes, they are made up of short phrases, with little polish and an abundance of African words, as would be the case with the creation of a human element arising from sugar cane plantations or the sugar mill barracks. The structure of the Columbia (soloist-chorus) is the same as the other styles of rumba and presents two clearly defined parts: one of solo singing and the Capetillo or danced part. El Llorao is characteristic of Columbia and consists of a few whining cries or exclamations that the singer or Gallo throws in the middle of his songs. Before Capetillo there is also room for Cantos de Puya or boasting. The air at Columbia is "fast but settled". One of the drums, the Quinto, should underline every movement made by the dancers, requiring their players to be more skilled, because of the variety of strokes they will have to score.
From the musical point of view it has a simple structure, with a fixed character. The beginning is marked by percussion, which is a fast rhythm. Immediately the voice of the singer, called the rooster, comes out, who emits some lamentations or groans in cut inflections that are called weeping. After this introduction, the soloist raises the chant, in short text, which alludes to events, issues or people, almost always from the specific social environment. Sometimes the songs take on a mysterious or enigmatic tone. Then comes the chorus or montuno, influenced by the mambos of prosapia conga. This part is also called "capetillo" and marks the moment when the dancers go out to the bullring or fence.
In its origins, rumba columbia was danced by either men alone or by a couple of men and women. However, in its later development, in the urban setting, it became a solo dance, and so it has come to our days. The instruments used to perform rumba columbia are the same as those used for yambú, but the performers must play with a greater polyrhythmic richness.