Taino Arawak

An indigenous people who lived in Cuba at the time of the Spanish discovery and who eventually perished by the turn of the 17th century, either at the hands of the Spanish, from European illnesses or by suicide. Modern scholars dispute the extent of indigenous contribution to Cuban music, however most agree that the Taino Arawak and other native groups were responsible for the presence of the maracas and the güiro, which, 500 years ago were among the musical centerpieces of areito music, and which today provide the distinctive dry rattling and scraping percussion that characterizes many ensembles.


A 17th-century drawing of Taino Arawak musicians in Hispaniola.