The rumba is a dance that rivets its image on the mind. Holding much history, it has been and is a dance of oppositions: love and hate, hostility and harmony, sensuality and prudence. Musically, it taps into the realms of technicality and improvisation. The dance and music is a marvel, leaving a lusty taste in its trail so that a natural tendency towards it never fades.
The origins of the rumba stem from Africa. The steps and song of traditional rumba may have begun as remembered pieces of dance from the Ganga or Kisi people in Cuba, generalized groups of West Central African descent.
Some prospect that the Sara peoples of northern Nigeria are the originators of rumba, a similar dance is of rows of boys in front of rows of girls, approaching one another in movement and then separating. In present-day Zaire, a traditional BaKongo dance called vane samba appears to directly link to rumba’s progenitors. A characteristic highlight occurs when the bodies of a dancing pair meet, or almost meet at the navel. This movement mirrors the rumba’s vacunao, a prominent feature in some forms of rumba.
The name rumba possibly derives from the Spanish language, the word rumbo translates to route, rumba translates to heap pile, and rum is of course the liquor popular in the Caribbean. Any of these words might have been used descriptively when the dance was being formed. The name has most often been claimed to be derived from the Spanish word for carousel, or festival.
Rumba developed in the 1850s and 1860s among free black slaves gathered to express their struggles with one another. Following the abolition of slavery in Cuba in 1886, poor Cubans dealt with a society still emphasizing color and class, by participating in communal gatherings known as rumbas. The cathartic music and dance created eventually found its name from these meetings.
Post 1518, enslaved Africans had a continuous influence on Cuba, particularly after 1700 through 1886. During these years, “massive numbers of new arrivals kept a persistent and forceful garden of African culture growing whenever and wherever they could in the nooks and crannies” (Shephard, Beckles 457). Overwhelming colonial authority and restriction, the convention of the enslaved Afro-Cubans implicitly permeated Cuba for more than two hundred years.
Havana was the cradle for large numbers of enslaved Africans by the end of the eighteenth century. Slave barracks became kernels of anguish. Rebellion was prohibited and dangerous, so resistance was expressed in recreational music and dance.
Because revolts were feared by authorities, factionalism was tolerated and black cabildos were molded. Cabildos were homogenous African ethnic groups that operated as mutual aid societies. Unintentionally, the cabildos proved fundamental in the crystallization of African cultural traditions in Cuba, including language and religious practices.
With the end of slavery,...