In Cuba, music says it all...
Posted by Rich Mancini
Posted in: Tauck’s Travelogue
Tags: Cuba, Travel
It has always seemed to this traveler (and music lover) that music is about as close to a universal language as the world will ever get. Think about it: wherever you might be, and whatever language it might be sung in, a good song can get you moving and “into it” whether you understand its lyrics or not… it just reaches out and grabs you. Nowhere is this more evident than when traveling in Cuba – where music seems to be everywhere, and where that “language” is alive and well, and an essential part of the fabric of daily life.
In all its diverse forms, the music of Cuba has given birth to many Latin-influenced musical styles that have spread all over the globe. You’ll find live music of all kinds played everywhere, from Havana to Santiago de Cuba and all throughout the island… on city streets or in tiny villages, in clubs, in casas de la trova (local music houses where traditional guitar-based trova is played), in public squares… it’s the lifeblood of a musical culture that has traveled throughout the world. It’s infectious… it truly brings people together… and always, it makes you want to get up and dance…
When you visit Cuba, you’ll see (and hear) this for yourself. It won’t take very long before you come across someone (or several someones) singing, strumming a guitar, or otherwise expressing themselves musically. Soon, you’ll find yourself swaying to the rhythm, slowly becoming part of the music… and, in a way, part of the performance. And can you tell me a better way of communicating from one culture to another? Sounds very much like a universal language to me…
And in case you’re interested in learning a little more about the music of Cuba and the many genres you may encounter, here’s a little (and by no means complete) field guide. Listen… and enjoy!
SON: Developed in the 19th century as a combination of Spanish guitar and lyrical traditions with African vocals and percussion, son is the progenitor of most other Cuban musical genres, and the most important; son is to Cuba what the tango is to Argentina.
SALSA: Descended from Cuban son and now practiced throughout the world, this popular dance style has also been greatly influenced by American jazz and many forms of Afro-Cuban music, including rumba.
TROVA: The traveling singer/songwriters of Eastern Cuba developed this genre as they went from house to house, singing ballads about love, women and their beloved country.
BOLERO: The ballads of this romantic, heartfelt, slow-tempo genre originated in Santiago de Cuba during the late 19th century, and are often performed by soloists or a duo.
JAZZ: Originally imported from America in the 1920s and 30s, jazz took on its own Cuban identity to become highly popular throughout the island, and many Cuban-born jazz musicians have become famous throughout the world.
RUMBA: Cuban in origin but largely African in style, this genre employs only vocals and percussion, and refers to many various forms of Afro-Cuban song and dance.
TIMBA: A dominant genre in today’s Cuban music, this contemporary version of son-derived salsa draws heavily on African folk dances, rumba, rap and reggae.