Many people from around the world describe Cuba as the island of music. It can lay claim to over 25 different rhythms with the best known being Son, Conga, Rumba and the Cha cha cha.
There are several reasons for Cuba's prolific production of musical forms. Firstly, its geographic location is a rendezvous point for may different nations and cultures. Secondly, the culture of revelry and festivities has encourage the opening of many musical venues and has attracted many musicians and singers into professional entertainment. Thirdly, there is the oral tradition of the percussionists.
A Brief History During the early part of the 20th century, recordings of Cuban musicians made by U.S. companies flooded the Americas, Europe and other parts of the world. This encouraged an exceptionally broad spread of Cuban music and its popularity started to grow.
The first boom. the first revolution of national music came when the eastern Son arrived in Havana during the 1920s. This musical form was marked by profound changes in the types of instruments used, the new dynamic performances and the new style of lyrics.
Years went by and in the 1950s, according to many experts, a real musical high-point brought forth two resounding rhythms, mambo and Cha Cha Cha.
The music of the brilliant singer Benny Moré, dudded El Barbaro del ritmo (The Greatest of the rhythm), became very popular at this time.
Arts schools were created in Cuba after the Revolution in 1959 and world class musicians began entering the entertainment world and Cuba began to reap the rewards.
The Nueva Trova or "New Song Movement," spearhead by Silvio Rodríguez and Pablo Milanes, appeared on the domestic scene, while musicians like Elio Reve and Juan Formell introduced the Shangui-Shae rhythm.
Later, Formell created the Songo, combining Son, Yoruba and modern pop and would eventually become the director of the wildly popular Los Van Van orchestra. Chucho Valdes, the winner of 5 Grammy's and counting, formed his band "Irakere" to open the era of latin jazz.
There wave of the music known as Cuban salsa was unleashed in the 1980s. The 1990s witnessed the fusion of Son, Rumba, latin jazz, rap, pop, Caribbean and other rhythms. The revival of Son and traditional Trova took Cuba by surprise as the 20th century faded away.
Singers ans musicians who were about to retire united their talents and returned to the stage. Then the Buenavista Social Club musical phenomenon made its breakthrough and brought its musicians back into the spotlight. Old musical celebrities such as Compay Segundo, Ibrahim Ferrer, Omara Portuondo and Ruben González went back to the work to show the word the best of Cuban music.
Polo Montañes had sung in small country festivals and venues for many years when he recorded his first disc "Guajiro Natural." This authentic peasant's simple traditional music rocked him to the world wide fame.
Cuba welcomes the new century with all of its musical reserves full. Its dance music remains successful in Europe and throughout the Caribbean island. Old Son and Trova performers engaged in constant international tours. Cuban rhythms may have been fading but they are in fashion again.
Cuba does possess the most abundant source of rhythms and the wides musical diversity on the planet; a source continuously preserved and nurtured.