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Many thousands of miles away from the shores of Cuba, the Belgian Congo seems like an unlikely source of inspiration for a distinctively Cuban sound. Brandishing a range of instruments including a drums (Congo, Tumbador and Quinto), cowbells, frying pans and other metal objects, the rhythms of the Conga began to flourish during the fiestas celebrated by African slaves during the colonial Spanish period in Cuba. Congo plays a fundamental role in the historic process of Cuban music and its catchy rhythms guided the steps of countless charanga and parranda dancers.

The music of Cuba is largely based on its cultural origins in Europe and Africa. The arrival on the island of thousands of African slaves over the course of three hundred years created a wealth of new musical forms. Deeply rooted in African rhythms, the country’s distinctive music owes its melodic power to its Spanish colonial heritage. The lively, energetic Cuban sound has profoundly influenced musical styles throughout the world, an impact that continues to this day. Distinct dance forms, related to specific types of music, over time have cross-pollinated, evolving into new styles of expression.