The Influential Sounds of Son Cubano in Cuba
Son cubano is a dancing and singing style from Cuba. It gained international fame around 1930. It’s one of the most influential genres of Latin American music. Thanks to son cubano, we have other popular genres like salsa.
The word son means something close to “sound” or “tune.” It’s not exclusive to son cubano; others include son huasteco and son jarocho.
Son cubano has African and Spanish heritage and involves many Cuban instruments, as well as guitar and percussion.
Keep reading to learn all about son cubano music, including its origin, defining characteristics, traditional instruments, and more.
¡Aprendamos de Cuba!
Let’s learn about Cuba.
Origin of Son Cubano
The original folkloric styles of son cubano come from far-flung cultures of West Africa. They came together in eastern Cuba and Havana. At the same time, they merged with Spanish musical traditions. As a result the rumba and son cubano appeared in the Caribbean island.
This changed the social dynamics between ethnic groups. They began to interact more and to dissolve barriers and rivalries between genres, styles and rural versus urban music.
The combination of Cuban instruments eventually became a son.
In the capital city of Havana, other genres like mambo, bolero, and guaracha aided the evolution of the son cubano.
The son cubano started to gain influence in Latin America and soon landed in New York City. One of its most significant contributions is that it also helped give birth to other popular sounds like salsa and chá chá chá.
Son cubano is still popular in Cuba. As it gained international recognition, it continued to merge with other styles, so it has many branches and offshoots today. I
New generations of Cubans prefer sounds like salsa, which derived from son cubano and is one of the most important Latin genres ever.
Son cubano and other Cuban music styles are a great attraction for tourists to consider when visiting the island. It is an asset that translates to economic progress.
According to oral Cuban tradition, the first song of son cubano is the Son de la Ma Teodora by two Afro-Cuban sisters, Micaela and Teodora Ginés, who had recently been freed after slavery was abolished.
Learn about Cuba’s Independence and Grito de Yara!
Main Characteristics of Son Cubano
Son cubano uses African rhythms made with the Cuban percussion instruments and bell patterns. It includes montunos, which are short melodic patterns or phrases that vary within a composition in terms of pitch.
The fusion of sounds is another main characteristic of son cubano. It has started, developed, served as an example and influence for many other music genres. Charanga, songo, timba, son Africano, son bolero, and rumba are only some of the puzzle pieces Afro-Cuban musicians have fused to create the son cubano we know today.
One of the most significant Cuban instruments is the tres cubano. It’s a variation of the Spanish guitar and has three pairs of strings.
Others are the piano, trumpet, bongos, timbales, claves—two thick wooden sticks that you play to set a pattern or rhythm—congas, double bass, güiro, maracas, and vocals.
Timbales are Cuban instruments of percussion that Cubans developed as an alternative to other types of drums. They’re tall and have metal casing.
People play them with sticks or their bare hands. Latin musicians get particularly creative during solos and use more things to get a wider range of drum expressions. This usually happens in song transitions.
Congas are Afro-Cuban percussion instruments. They are tall drums with one head that look like barrels. Their classification depends on their height. The name comes from a musical genre where these drums are essential.
The güiro is a percussion musical instrument found in many parts of Latin America. It’s a hollow gourd with carved-out parallel lines on the outside. Play it by scraping sticks or something with tines—similar to hair combs— on those lines with a specific rhythm. The strokes are short or long, depending on the song.
This instrument isn’t exclusive to son cubano. People use it when playing salsa, trova, and cumbia. The most common places to find it are Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Mexico.
As time goes by, it’s becoming less common for conjuntos musicales (musical ensembles) to use the marimbol or marímbula—not to be confused with Mexican or Central American marimba.
It’s a native Cuban instrument and was once one of the basic instruments for playing son cubano. It is a rectangular wooden box or sounding board solid enough for the musician to sit on. Marímboles have a small metal keyboard over a hole so that the sound travels inside it and echoes.
Son Cubano Choreography
Son cubano songs are similar to salsa, only slower. The choreography consists of three steps in a row followed by a pause. The difference is that every step is more energetic and clear (like in mambo) and with an accentuated hip movement.
Lateral steps, twist in pair, and the adelante-atrás step—or the forward-backward step— are common. Since the tempo is slower, dancers can adorn each step even more and show more cadence.
One of the most representative dance moves of son cubano is one where the man, leaning only on the tip of his feet, gets parallel to the floor while the woman takes his hand and spins him.
Learn More About Son Cubano
The best way to learn about son cubano is to travel to Cuba and hear it at its source! In case you want to continue getting closer to Cuban or other Latin American cultures, there’s nothing like seeing for yourself how history and culture has shaped today’s traditions and customs.
To visit Cuba and throw down the language barriers, learn Spanish before you go. This empowers you to get closer to locals, exchange opinions, ask for directions, learn Cuban slang words, and have unforgettable life experiences.
Contact our friendly teachers from Guatemala, and we’ll tailor a Spanish package that meets your needs and interests. Discuss son cubano and learn more about other Latin American music. Become part of our community of more than 24,000 monthly enrolled students!
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