An Introduction to Rumba and Afro-Cuban Jazz

"Rumba" is the name given to a musical "genre" (a particular category and type of music) of Afro-Cuban music. This term, Afro-Cuban, also needs some explanation here - it's the name applied to musical traditions of Africans brought to Cuba as slaves, which happened as early as the 1500's but was at its peak in the 1830's. Rumba is a music of Cuban origin, but the style, using voice, percussion and dance, is an African tradition.


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The name "rumba" was originally another way to say "party," and rumba music can certainly be thought of as energetic party music. Check out the video below to hear some classic rumba, and we think you'll agree that it's hard to sit still when you hear these rhythms. The performer in this video is Chano Pozo ... more on him below.

An early rumba performer who made a major contribution to latin jazz is Chano Pozo, who met Dizzy Gillespie in 1947 and became part of Dizzy's band as he helped popularize the Afro-Cuban jazz style. Pictured below are Chano (left) and Dizzy (right), along with a fun album cover from one of their early musical collaborations.

Rumba musician Chano Pozo with Dizzy Gillespie, and one of their album covers

Here's a video, which simply shows a still photo of Chano Pozo with his bongo drum ... but we include it here, because it's a recording featuring Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo performing Manteca, which was co-written by Dizzy and Chano, and became a huge hit of the Afro-Cuban jazz genre.

Going back to the history of this music, one can say that the mixing of African, Spanish, and local cultures in Cuba created a unique body of music and dance. Jazz musicians in the United States had been aware of latin music styles and had incorporated some of it into early jazz, but in the 1940's and 1950's, when musicians from Cuba began to play with jazz musicians in New York, the union of these musicians helped make the circle complete with the development of Afro-Cuban jazz.

We know this is just barely touching the tip of the vast topic of Rumba and Afro-Cuban jazz, but hope that this basic introduction provides some interest into further investigation of Latin and jazz music.




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