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Cuban Music for Beginners

Cuba music

Music in Cuba is an essential part of the culture, with music and dance both key to the people of this country. These art forms have, for the last 50 years, acted as opportunities for the people to be free to express themselves and to express their individuality. Cuban music for the visitor and for locals, offers a wonderfully vibrant and lively sound, a sign perhaps of influences from the Caribbean, Africa and Spain.

Cuba, one might argue, has prospered in terms of music, in absence of the American influences which surely otherwise would have directed the jazzy and vibrant Cuban sounds, into something more pop style. If you love world music, you are very likely to enjoy the music here. There are a number of music styles and rhythms in Cuba and these are categorised below for you.


Bolero is a gentle and normally slow and romantic ballad, which is highly popular in Cuba and which has become famous as both a dance and type of music, worldwide.


‘Son’ is said by many to be the foundation on which modern day salsa is based. Used mainly as a music form to accompany dances, Son became popular towards the end of the nineteenth century in the Oriente province on the Eastern side of the island. This style of music became especially popular in the 1950s as a result of the movie Buena Vista Social Club and now a popular music group.


Cha cha is also now known worldwide and is a style of music and also dance that has its origins in Cuba, as a result of music style first introduced by Enrique Jorrín. Cha cha as a form of music and dance is still very popular in ballrooms in locations such as Havana, London (England), Paris (France) and many locations worldwide.


A musical style started in France in the 18th century, the danzón is the root source of most Cuban music and gained popularity within slave culture and with Creole peasants. Played by orchestras, danzon has a continual tempo.


Rumba can easily form as a result of social gatherings in Cuba, with a variety of African-derived rhythms and dances involving a sensuous flick of the hips, taking place. Many rumbas involve a call and answer pattern between singers and drummers.

Jazz Cubano

Or Cuban jazz, as expressed in English, was suppressed to a large extend in the early part of the revolution, but has become very popular again in he last last decade, as signified by the Havana International Jazz Festival, which is now one of the world’s leading jazz festivals.


Conga is always very popular at carnival time both in Cuba and globally. Although not native to these islands, this music is much loved.


Timba is best described as a very lively and wild form of salsa This form of dance is the most modern dance to come out of Cuba and is a child of of samba. Improvisation and an eclectic mix of genres is central to this form of music.

Cuban music is continually evolving, despite the constraints put on its peoples in the last few decades. It is all but impossible to suppress the love of music and dance in most cultures and certainly not in Cuba, where people are always very passionate and attain a certain Caribbean rhythm. Music will always be very important to the people on these islands. Cuban music is both extensive and varied and it will take a lifetime to experience it in its entirety.

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