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(See also The Cuban Rumba Box, my history of the Cuban percussion instrument of the same name, downloadable via the link above.)

Cuban music is a combination of powerful African rhythms and Spanish poetic melody that Cuban born ethnomusicologist Fernando Ortiz termed ‘A love affair between the African drum and the Spanish guitar’.

During the Spanish colonisation of Cuba in the fifteenth century the indigenous population of Cuba was vastly reduced in number by unfamiliar diseases brought to the island by the Spanish. Many died in slavery, and many committed suicide rather than be under Spanish rule. Thanks to the almost complete extermination of the indigenous population there was a need for people to work the fields and plantations, and so slaves were brought from West Africa, bringing with them traditional African music and rhythms. This music was introduced to the Spanish acoustic guitar, creating a marriage of the two.

Cuban music has for many years been a strong influence in other types of music on a worldwide scale. The Cuban percussion section usually provides the rhythms in Cuban popular music, which began to spread around the world in the early 20th century.

The creativity, dynamics and innovation of Cuban music places it on an exciting developmental path – a musical revolution that continues to shake the world!

In Cuba this music is usually heard at festivals, carnivals, on the streets and near enough everywhere you go. Cuban songs often deal with themes such as love and relationships, as well as commenting on everyday activities such as eating and farming. They sometimes commemorate historical events, or have social themes, including pro–revolutionary messages.