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The music of Cuba

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Michael Lupo

on 31 March 2015

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Transcript of The music of Cuba

Caribbean Sea (Island republic in West Indies); Tropic of Cancer; capital: Havana
Independent republic in 1901, communist state in 1961
First inhabitants: the Siboney (or Ciboney), Arawak (during Spanish conquest), and Taino
Bartolome de las Casas (1484-1566), Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo (1478-1557)
conch-shell trumpet (guamos or cobos)
musical practice of the Siboney and Taino-Arawak; indigenous (Amerindian)
communal, religious event: dancing, ritual tobacco smoking, consumption of alcohol
Dancing: likely mimetic; ring formation
Responsorial: led by a tequina (musical specialist chosen by tribe)
Areito banned by colonial officials in 1512 (the practice is thus short-lived)
Punto & Decima
Iberian (Spanish) heritage

Musica guajiro (music of rural Hispanic farmers)

Remains a strong tradition today due to government-subsidized immigration from the Canary Islands in the 1910s and 1920s
Song & string instrument traditions
Punto: Strictly, a term used to describe instrumental music, which usually accompanies song

Decima: By contrast, decima refers to the poetry most commonly associated with musica guajira
Composed or improvised
First develops in medieval Spain
Ten 8-syllable lines with espinela rhyme scheme: ABBAACCDDCC
Stylized and formulaic melodies
Emphasis on text, with music playing supportive role
Still extant, but quite out of fashion
Poetic song-dueling between two artists

Decima improvisers are required to respond quickly to the challenges of their opponents and sing their own responses within strict metric conventions

Santeria (or Regla de Ocha): Mix of African, Caribbean, and Catholic traditions. Liturgical language: Lucumi (dialect of Yoruba [West Africa, especially Nigeria])
Afro-cuban religious devotion involves music and dance; the orisha/orichaso (ancestor divinities) can only be invoked and worshiped by playing songs devoted to them
Bata' drumming (for
spirit possession)
Conga (Comparsa)
Groups of street musicians that perform in street parades; beginning of the 20th century
Derives from 19th-century ensembles of slaves and free blacks who were allowed to perform their tango cango music publicly on Epiphany (El dia de Reyes)
Many black Cubans, not allowed to participate in Carnival, participated
Controversial (banned even in 20th century from Carnival from 1914-36)
Organized by townships. Strong tradition in Belen, Atares, Jesus Maria, Cayo Hueso
Homemade instruments, song, dance, costumes
Used by Cuban politicians to gain the black vote
Popular Genres
Ballroom music: Contradanza, danza
European ballroom genres (e.g., the minuet, gavotte, quadrille, and waltz) blend with Afro-Cuban influences to produce new styles
Contradanza and danza born in 19th century: fusions of European musical forms with light percussive accompaniment featuring isorhythmic pattern brought to Cuba by Haitian refugees in 1790s: the cinquillo
Opposed by middle-class critics who denounced cinquillo as "savage Africanism"
First widely popular form of national music?
20th-century popular genre
Fusion of African and Hispanic roots
Symbol of Cuban national identity
Lots of subgenres
Duple meter, simple (European-derived) harmonic patterns (e.g., I-V, I-IV-V), verse-chorus form, clave
Montuno: final section of most sones: faster, rapid alternations between improvised vocal or instrumental solo sections ("inspiraciones")
Cyclic, antiphonal, highly improvisatory nature of montuno recalls West African practices, while initial strophic sections (canto or tema) resemble European models
Three Histories: African, European, Mulatto
Sacred Music
Secular Music: Rumba
Afro-cuban genre in which one or two dancers are accompanied by an ensemble consisting of 3 congas, 2 pair of tapped sticks, and a lead singer and chorus
Emerges in 1800s
Secular, but uses most of the same instruments and features of sacred (Santeria) practices
Entertainment genre for "lower classes" in poverty- stricken neighborhoods
Guaguanco': most popular type
Ostinato on congas (improv. on the quinto [high-pitched, single-skin drum])
Interlocking pattern with palitos (sticks)
From Yoruba to the Congolese...

More influential in the secular realm (esp. Rumba)
Southeast of Nigeria
Bantu hunter-gatherers
Congolese region of Cuba: Palo tradition
Single-headed drums (ngoma)...develops into the conga drum
Spanish language
Bipartite Form
(1) Canto
Lyrics can be about anything (the neighborhood, love, quarreling)
This lasts for a few minutes, then the lead vocalist cues other singers to join in a short refrain called Montuno (call and response)

(2) Montuno
Couple begins to dance a pantomimed courting ritual (alternation between interest, coyness, and boredom)
Little physical contact

European Influences
Full transcript