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Music

Son

Described by Fernando Ortiz as ‘a love affair between the African drum and the Spanish guitar,’ Son is the quintessential Cuban sound. Emerging from the Oriente [eastern] region of the country at the end of the 19th century, Son is a soulful blend of two musical genres: Danzón, a European-style set figure dance performed by partners in coordinated groups; and the hypnotic rhythms of Rumba.

By the time Son migrated to Havana about 1909, the music typically included vocals, the Cuban Tres [a type of guitar], double bass, bongos, claves and maracas; the trumpet was added in the 1930s. It was the claves that kept the time for both the music and dance steps. Today, Son can be heard everywhere – on the streets, in parks and town squares as well as in cafés, restaurants and the casas de la trova [music houses] that can be found in every town and village.

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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.