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date: 19 November 2019


  • David Garcia


Internationally popular music and dance style that developed in Havana in the late 1930s. In its earliest manifestation mambo involved new ways of playing and dancing to Cuban danzón and son music, both of which had already been established by the early 20th century. Its characteristics included the use of short (typically two bars) and syncopated rhythmic patterns usually at the arrangement’s finale. This section constituted the liveliest part during which dancers executed their most animated movements. Most historians agree that Orestes López of the charanga Arcaño y sus Maravillas composed the first mambo before 1940. The first mambo that Arcaño’s charanga actually recorded was Israel “Cachao” López’s “Rarezas” in 1940. By 1943 conjunto leader Arsenio Rodríguez began to record son music that featured similar characteristics, while Cuban arrangers René Hernández, Bebo Valdés, and Dámaso Pérez Prado began to implement syncopated figures in specific sections of their arrangements for Cuban big bands. The Mexican film industry further popularized the music and dance styles throughout Latin America by featuring Pérez Prado’s music and big band. The self-proclaimed “King of the Mambo” ...

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Musical Quarterly