Buena Vista Social Club
La Coleccion Cubana
Fenix
Beny Moré

Latin » Cuban Traditions » Rumba

Rhumba's beginnings as a musical style are equally rooted in commercialism and cultural exchange. When Prohibition made it illegal to sell alcohol in the United States, the American mob journeyed south to Cuba to set up smuggling operations and tourist outlets like nightclubs, hotels and casinos. Supported by General Machada, "The President of a Thousand Murders," the area around Havana became home to world-famous clubs like the Tropicana and became a major destination for wealthy Americans seeking to escape the austere pallor that had descended back home. The resulting influx of visitors from the U.S. helped create fervent cravings for Cuban music in the States when the tourists returned home with heads full of vibrant Latin sounds. The New York nightclubs and Hollywood movie producers who capitalized on this trend, however were scared away by the dark-skinned players and complex rhythms of the authentic son and rumba bands from the island, and instead promoted a kind of big-band hybrid which was introduced by musicians like Los Angeles-based Xavier Cugat. This music, while sharing a nearly identical name with rumba, had little in common with the music that had originated in the black neighborhoods of Havana and other cities. The name rhumba was effective in conjuring up exotic and exuberant images to market to American audiences, even though authentic rumba was also going through changes at this time as a new generation of musicians adopted western instruments like the piano and upright bass in an effort to sound less folky and ethnic. The name was broadly applied, with many of rhumba's original hits, like Don Azpiazu's arrangement of Moises Simón's "El Manciero" actually being son songs. The rhythms of folk music provided rhumba a jumping-off point, but Cugat's pan-Latin influences and the swing bands of New York helped give it a rapidly evolving sound that nearly immediately became a worldwide craze. Havana became known as a cultural center, but many of the bands there knew where the money was coming from and gave themselves English names like Happy Happy and Swing Havana to increase their commercial appeal. Both Miami and New York became centers of the rhumba craze -- with New York rhumba taking cues from big bands and bandleaders in Miami like Desi Arnaz importing new elements like conga drums and carneval-style line dances (the traditional rumba dances were thought to be too hard for non-Cubans to learn) to create dance music that was even more infectious and uncomplicated than rhumba had been. By the late '40s, most rhumba music had picked up the conga drums and line dances of the Miami style and began to be known as "conga" instead. However, until the ubiquitous term, "salsa" began to be applied to nearly all big-band Latin music in the '70s, the term rhumba was used generically to identify nearly all music from Cuba.

Rumba Artists Highlights

Buena Vista Social Club
Buena Vista Social Club
Beny Moré
Beny Moré
Frank Emilio Flynn
Frank Emilio Flynn
Xavier Cugat
Xavier Cugat
Trey Anastasio
Trey Anastasio
Gato Barbieri
Gato Barbieri

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Rumba Album Highlights

La Coleccion Cubana
Beny Moré
La Coleccion Cubana
Fenix
Gato Barbieri
Fenix
Cuban Originals
Beny Moré
Cuban Originals
Y Hoy Como Ayer
Beny Moré
Y Hoy Como Ayer
Voz Y Obra
Beny Moré
Voz Y Obra
The Original Latin Dance King
Xavier Cugat
The Original Latin Dance ...

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Rumba Song Highlights

Title/Composer Performer Stream
Barbaro del Ritmo Beny Moré
Mata Siguaraya Beny Moré
Carnavalito Gato Barbieri
Maracaibo Oriental Beny Moré
Devuélveme el Coco Beny Moré
Mata Siguaraya Beny Moré
Mi Amor Fugaz Beny Moré
Bésame Mucho Xavier Cugat & His Orchestra
Maracaibo Oriental Beny Moré & His All Star Afro Cuban Big Band
Mamboletas Beny Moré

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Other Styles in Cuban Traditions