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date: 06 December 2019

Rumba [rhumba]locked

  • William Gradante
  •  and Deane L. Root



A popular recreational dance of Afro-Cuban origin. It originated in the dances of the Kongo cult; the columbia and guaguancó were mimetic dances, danced with extensive hip and shoulder movements and improvised acrobatics, and the rumba yambú and rumba de tiempó España were imitations of old people and housewives. In Cuba the rumba is defined by its accompaniment, most often comprising conga, tumbadora, quinto or salidor drums and claves and palitos or cáscara (stick-beaten resonant object). These instruments perform in a complex duple-metre pattern using extensive syncopation and tresillo (dotted quaver–dotted quaver–quaver) rhythms (see Cuba, Republic of, §II, 1, (iii)). The rumba became known in a modified form in the USA as early as 1914 but it did not become popular elsewhere until it was reintroduced to the USA in a less suggestive version in 1931, and it soon spread to Europe. As a ballroom dance it is performed by a solo dancer or by a couple in the normal ballroom embrace but held slightly apart. The characteristic movement is a rocking of the hips, to a quick–quick–slow rhythm, often creating cross-rhythms with the accompaniment. The melody is often repetitive and much of the character of the music derives from the ostinato one-bar rhythmic pattern played on the maracas, claves (or sticks) and other Cuban percussion instruments. In Europe and the USA in the 1930s the rumba absorbed jazz elements; it continued as a popular ballroom dance into the 1970s and has been the model for the mambo, cha cha cha and other ‘Latin American’ ballroom dances. The rumba has also been used in concert music, notably by Milhaud in ...

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Latin American Music Review