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Module 2: Musical Syncretism glossary (Smithsonian)

In this module you will learn about:

  1. The first syncretic musical forms that resulted from the blending of the European musical tradition and the musical elements introduced by back and mulato musicians, such as the contradanza complex (which includes the danza, the habanera and the danzon).
  2. Musical forms derived from the combination of Spanish rural music and African percussion, such as the son.
  3. Creole adaptations of African celebration and street music, such as the conga and the rumba.
  4. Musical forms that developed from the danzon, such as the cha cha cha, and the mambo.
  5. The difference between the traditional charanga orchestra and the jazz-influenced brass band associated with mambo.

In Cuba, slaves were able to preserve their religions and transmit them from generation to generation by way of their music. Slaves were allowed to dance in the streets on certain occasions, such as the Epiphany, the Carnival and the Feast of St. John, which coincided with the summer solstice and the feast of the powerful Yoruba god Oggún. This process of syncretism, or the blending of two heterogeneous cultural traditions that results in a third, accelerated the absorption of African music and rituals into the national culture of Cuba. Cuban music developed along three fundamental lines: religious music, which remained almost intact since its inception and kept very close to its African models; dance hall music, which kept European instrumentation and structures but gradually added African rhythmic cells and percussion, and street music, which was performed regularly in the poor communities known as solares, and during the carnival<more>

Assignment 1: Contradanza, Danza, Danzon
The Haitian contredanse developed during the first half of the nineteenth century into the Cuban danza and the habanera. Analyze how these forms further incorporated African musical elements.

Assignment 2: His Majesty the Son and Queen Rumba
Other musical forms developed in early nineteenth century Cuba that were not related to the contredanse, but that derived directly from Congolese forms like the yuka and the makuta. Of these, the rumba and the conga were the most important. Explore the rhythmic elements of these two forms.

Assignment 3: Charanga, Guaracha, Cha Cha Cha, and Mambo
The first three of these musical forms developed from the Haitian contredanse, while the mambo incorporates the orchestration and the free structure of American jazz. Compare and contrast the basic elements of these forms.

Movers and Shakers

Miguel Failde
Born in Matanzas into a family of musicians, Failde created his own Orquesta Tipica which played danzas, waltzes, pasodobles and other dance hall pieces. Held in great esteem, Failde's orchestra was in a privileged position to introduce further changes into the danza form. In 1879 he composed "Las Alturas de Simpson," officially considered the first danzon. Other well-known composition by Failde are "Cuba Libre", "El mondonguito",and "A La Habana me voy."

Damaso Perez Prado
Known as "The Mambo King," Perez Prado was one of the most influential pop orchestra leaders of the early 1950s. His concept of the mambo began to develop around 1943, incorporating elements of American jazz. Jazz writer and critic Ralph J. Gleason reported that "Prez" talked to him about the mambo as being a combination od Afro-Cuban music with American swing. Mambo produced the greatest world-wide dance craze since the tango and the rumba, appearing in famous movies like Fellini's "La Dolce Vita."

Chano Pozo
The legendary Cuban percussionist, singer, dancer and composer Luciano Pozo is credited with being the most influential figure in the development of Latin jazz and incorporating religious drumming into Cuban orchestras, which until then had only used bongos and timbales. He got his start after moving to New York in 1947, where he met Dizzy Gillespie, who had become interested in Afro-Cuban percussion. Among his features with Dizzy were "Cubana Be," "Cubana Bop," "Tin Tin Deo" and "Manteca." Pozo co-wrote "Tin Tin Deo" and "Manteca."

Audio Clip: Las Alturas de Simpson, the first danzon. Audio Clip: Mambo #8 Audio Clip: Tin Tin Deo
<more movers and shakers>



Next >> Module 3: Salsa & Latin Jazz
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