One of the least known Afro-Cuban religions, Abakua is a ‘males-only’
secret fraternal society that follows rules similar to European
Ali Farka Touré (Talking Timbuktu)
Ry Cooder, in collaboration with Malian guitarist-vocalist Ali Farka Touré,
received the Grammy in 1994 for this Best World Music album.
One of the three pillars of Cuban music (the other two are Beny Moré and
Miguel Matamoros). Rodríguez was the architect of the Cuban sound as we know
it today. He added drums and more brass to enrich the classic conjunto style in
the 40s. After decades of fame, Rodríguez died in obscurity in Los Angeles in
Double-headed drums shaped like an hour-glass with one cone larger than the
other. The drums are sacred to the Yoruba religion in Nigeria, as well as to
worshippers of Santería in Cuba and in the U.S.
One of the most revered figures of Cuban music. Beny Moré had the charisma,
the voice and the musical genius of the great ones. His major contribution was
the creation of the Cuban-style big band.
Betto conceived and created the daily world music program “Global Village”
on 90.7 KPFK, Pacifica Radio’s Los Angeles radio station. As the Monday host
since 1997, Betto has interviewed the full range of world-class musicians,
including Angola’s Waldemar Bastos, Algeria’s Cheb Mami, Argentina’s
Gustavo Santaolalla, India’s Ronu Majumdar, Peru’s Susana Baca, France’s
Manu Chao, Mexico’s Café Tacuba, as well as members of the Buena Vista
Social Club. Through KPFK’s “Global Village”, Betto helped to launch the
career of Lila Downs, one of Mexico’s emerging world music artists.
A slow, romantic ballad that originated in Cuba, and a style that quickly
roamed across the globe. Bolero lyrics deal with classic love story material.
In Mexico, the bolero was revitalized by trios performing with acoustic and
lead guitars, incidental percussion and harmony vocals.
Bassist Israel López is known for his contribution to the creation of the
descarga or Cuban jam session. Along with his brother Orestes López, Cachao is
also responsible for building the musical foundation of the Mambo.
Cuba’s all-time most popular and charismatic vocalist. She achieved
international acclaim with La Sonora Matancera in the 1950s. Celia Cruz left
Cuba just before the 1959 Revolution. To this day, Cruz continues to tour and
record music. She was featured in the Playboy Jazz Festival 2000 at the
The Cha-cha-cha was a bouncy ballroom dance developed in the 1950s and was
an offspring of the more staid and elegant danzón. Among the artists that
popularized it are Orquesta Aragón and Tito Puente.
A folkish and up-tempo style from the eastern Cuban province of Guantánamo.
The instruments include tres guitar, maracas and bongos.
Cuban drummer and vocalist who had a short but stellar career in New York.
Pozo was a major influential figure in the development of Afro-Cuban Jazz in
the U.S. His collaboration with Dizzy Gillespie on such classic compositions as
"Manteca" set the standard for Jazz, Afro-Cuban Jazz and Latin dance
music in the late 1940s.
A major Cuban arranger and composer who made his mark on
the Afro-Cuban and jazz circuits in Cuba, Mexico and the U.S. with his unique
approach to the big band sound of the 1950s.
The basis of all Cuban music, into which every element of arrangement and
improvisation should fit. Based on an offbeat 3/2 or 2/3 rhythmic pattern
spread out over two bars.
The Cuban conjunto combines vocals, trumpets, piano, bass, conga and bongo.
In the 1940s, Arsenio Rodríguez created the modern conjunto by expanding the
brass section and adding drums to give it back its African roots.
Cuban ballroom dance derived from the European 'contredanse' of the 1870s.
The music’s lush and elegant sound was provided by violins and
Legendary recording studios in downtown Havana, originally known as Panart,
where all the major figures of Cuban music have recorded, including Beny Moré,
Arsenio Rodríguez, and, of late, the Buena Vista Social Club
Also known by his nickname of El Guayabero, the ultimate composer of guajiro
music. His specialty is lyrics laced with double-entendres and sexual innuendo.
One of Cuba’s finest pianists and one of the first recording artists to be
signed by the respected Blue Note jazz label. Rubalcaba follows in the great
tradition of Cuban pianists with an exceptional ability to play jazz and
Afro-Cuban music equally well.
In the literal sense, refers to a peasant or any native of the Cuban
provinces. The music played by guajiros can be called Cuban provincial or
country music and is played with the tres guitar and percussion (bongos,
maracas), over which verses are structured in the decima (ten-line) style of
17th century Spain.
Originally a topical song genre for a chorus and a solo, improvisational
vocalist. One of the most popular styles used by today’s salsa bands, it also
continues to thrive among traditional music ensembles.
Trumpet player and bandleader of “Cubanismo!” A former member of the
traditional Cuban music ensemble Sierra Maestra along with Juan de Marcos
González, Alemañy’s band is at the forefront of the most recent resurgence
of Cuban music.
Machito & His Afro-Cubans
The first, and perhaps the finest, marriage between Afro-Cuban music and
jazz. In the 1940s, Machito and His Afro-Cubans, under the musical direction of
Mario Bauzá, achieved one of the most successful Latin music careers in the
Originally created by the brothers Israel and Orestes Lopez, of the
legendary Cachao clan. The mambo was a very popular style of music and dance in
the 1940s and 50s. One of the figures responsible for its popularity was the
Cuban bandleader Perez Prado, who spearheaded the Mambo craze in Mexico.
One of the most influential figures in Afro-Cuban music, Bauzá is directly
responsible for creating the first melding of jazz and Afro-Cuban music. His
many years as musical director and arranger for Machito and his Afro-Cubans set
the standard for Afro-Cuban music.
Influential Cuban conga player, bandleader and composer who pioneered the
marriage between Afro-Cuban rhythms and R&B. His most famous composition,
“Afro Blue,” became a jazz standard in the 1960s and was recorded by John
Coltrane among many others.
Nueva Trova Cubana
A musical as well as cultural, social and political movement that began in
the mid-sixties and intimately associated with the Cuban Revolution. While it
followed the long tradition of Cuban singer-songwriters or troubadours, its
main purpose was to promote an international sociopolitical consciousness and
further revolutionary ideals. Its most famous interpreters are Pablo Milanés
and Silvio Rodríguez, both of whom, it should be noted, have moved far beyond
the confines of the “protest” genre with highly complex and experimental
Cuba’s eastern-most province and the cradle of Cuban music, where it all
began over a hundred years ago.
One of the major figures of the Nueva Trova Cubana, Milanes’ early work
includes a full length recording which set the poetry of Cuba’s national hero
Jose Marti to music, called Versos Sencillos. Among his most popular songs are
“Yolanda”, “Para vivir”, and “Son de Cuba a Puerto Rico.” Universal
Music has released his complete recording collection.
Pueblo Nuevo Barrio
A working-class neighborhood in Havana where many of the major figures of
golden-era Cuban music hailed from — including Chano Pozo and Buena Vista
Social Club musician and producer Juan de Marcos González.
L.A.-based journalist and poet who has long written on Latin music for
numerous publications (he is a former Latin pop critic for the Los Angeles
Times). He has visited Cuba in the past and traveled over much of Latin
America. Principal writer for this website.
A word commonly used in the U.S. since the 1920s to describe any kind of
Cuban music. The rumba is a dance and music genre comprised of three variants:
the columbia, yambú and guaguancó.
The contemporary name for Cuban dance music. The word refers to the music’s
hot, up-tempo energy and uplifting vitality.
Cuba’s adaptation of the West African religion of Lucumi, in which Old
World deities were transformed into Catholic icons. The Santería religion has
given Latin music much of its rhythmic and melodic foundation.
In 1930s Cuba, septetos played mostly sones and boleros and were made up of
trumpet-led string groups, with tres guitar, maracas, bass and bongo. Two of
the major groups were Septeto Nacional and Septeto Habanero. The style they
played fell somewhere in between guajiro and conjunto.
Nueva Trova Cubana artist, perhaps one of Cuba’s most respected and
worshiped singer-songwriters and a major figure in Latin American music.
Rodríguez’s songs transcend all language and geographical barriers. Though
he has written many songs in defense of the Cuban revolution, the majority of
his compositions are complex poems full of melody and exceptional arrangements.
Among the most popular recordings are Mujeres, Playa Giron and, more recently,
Silvio, Rodriguez, Dominguez and Descartes.Sociedades
Members-only social clubs of 1940s and 50s Cuba where the middle- and upper
class socialized and danced to Cuban music.
The essence and heart of Afro-Cuban music. Cuban son is the result of the
meeting of the African and Spanish elements that gave birth to what we know
today as “tropical” music (salsa, rumba, Latin jazz, or “Afro-Cuban”).
It is an extremely flexible form. The son can be a spiritual, or a love song,
or just a plain old dance jam. While it has flourished throughout Latin
America, the original root can be traced back to the Oriente province of Cuba
at the dawn of the 20th century.
One of the first forms of the son tradition, which included an improvised
section, the montuno, and that is characterized by an intensely energetic
A singer or improviser who performs Afro-Cuban son. The best ‘soneros’
can improvise rhythmically, melodically and verbally against the refrain, or
coro of the song.
A big band or orchestra of as many as 15 musicians and usually several
vocalists and whose main purpose is to perform danceable music. The big, brassy
sound of the sonora was initially popularized by bands like La Sonora Matancera
in the late fifties and sixties.
A new approach to Cuban dance music (salsa), popularized by such bands as
Los Van Van and NG La Banda. The timba sound was influenced by American pop
music and is characterized by a fast and complicated piano style.
Cuban guitar made up of six strings doubled in three sets. The tres is an
essential instrument of Cuban guajiro music and was an important instrument of
the Cuban conjunto.
A repeated rhythmic pattern for bass and congas. Based on the clave beat,
the bassist’s tumbaos provide the scaffolding for the constant rhythmic
counterpoint of the percussionists.
V.M. Bhatt (A
Meeting by the River)
A collaboration between Ry Cooder and India’s Hindustani slide guitarist
V.M. Bhatt. The album was awarded the 1993 Grammy for Best World Music album.