Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

AFRO-CUBAN MUSIC

Cuban music has had an important influence on international popular music for a hundred years, and still does so despite a cultural embargo between the USA/Cuba since the Castro revolution '59; much of its essence comes from the ceremonies of Afro-Cuban religious cults, which struck a compromise between African and Catholic religious beliefs. In general the African side came from the people of the Niger River, who were either Yoruba or Lucumie; the deities were called Orisha or Oricha respectively. One of the best-known of all Afro-Cuban songs was "BabalĀ£', an invocation to the god of illness (Catholic equivalent San Lazaro: Lazarus), written by Margarita Lecuona (see Ernesto Lecuona), introduced in USA by Xavier Cugat, sung for many years by the popular Cuban singer Miguelito Valdes (also in a less authentic version by Desi Arnaz). The internationally popular salsa singer Celia Cruz recorded the invocations "BabalĀ£ Aye' and "Chango' in her early years (on Panart LP Santero) and continued to sing dozens of songs from the genre (Chango is the god of virility and strength, thunder and lightning, master of fire and war, etc; Catholic equivalent San Barbara). The Afro-Cuban songs adapted by Cuban dance orquestas generally fall into categories of invocations (others are "Ochun', "Ecue'), cradle songs ("Oggere', "Lacho'), popular sayings ("Facundo') and romantic songs ("Negra Trista', "La Cumparsa'). The rhythms have been even more influential than the songs: the mambo and others came from the religious ceremonies; Cuban rhythms entered modern jazz during the bop era (see Chano Pozo, Dizzy Gillespie, Machito).