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Cuban folk music

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Title: Cuban folk music  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Folk music, Cuban music, Music of Cuba, Cuban rumba, Mambo (music)
Collection: Cuban Music, Folk Music by Nationality
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Cuban folk music

Music of Cuba
General topics
Related articles
Media and performance
Music awards Beny Moré Award
Nationalistic and patriotic songs
National anthem La Bayamesa
Regional music

Cuban folk music is very diverse and has been influenced by Spanish people, slaves from Africa and the remaining indigenous population of the Caribbean.


  • Classification of genres 1
  • Instruments 2
  • Private clubs 3
  • Musicians 4
    • Ibrahim Ferrer 4.1
    • Ruben Gonzalez 4.2
  • Bibliography 5
  • External links 6

Classification of genres

The Cuban folk music is the traditional music that persisted up to the first decades of 20th-century. Many of this genres entered the popular music sphere. The Cuban folk music is classified in complejos by musicologists:[1]

One of the main styles used is the son. The son consists of many repeating sections and features much improvisation. It combines the Spanish elements of guitar with African rhythms as well as percussion.[2]
  • Complejo de la canción. Bolero, filin.
  • Complejo del punto, with its variants punto libre and punto fijo.

All the genres are performed by people of different ethnicities, afrocubans, mulatos, trigueños and whites.


Many of the instruments played in the Cuban folk music tradition are still played in modern Cuban folk music. Instruments such as the Congas, Cajon and the bata drums were brought to Cuba by slaves from Africa. As well as the marimbula this is related to the mbira from Africa.

Private clubs

We now turn the focus to Havana. By the 1940s many of the cities had grown greatly. There were many members-only clubs, such as cigar-rolling clubs, or baseball clubs, as well as music clubs. Entrance to these clubs was based on ethnicity. One such club was the Buena Vista Social Club. People would go there to dance and sing and listen to traditional Cuban folk music.


Ibrahim Ferrer

Two well known artists that played at the original Buena Vista Social Club were Ibrahim Ferrer and Ruben Gonzalez. Ferrer was born at a dance. His mother died when he was twelve. After his mother died he was forced to drop out of school and make a living. He made a band with his cousin called "Jovenes del Son" which helped to make ends meet. In the 1940s he sang at the Buena Vista Social Club. When the club closed and his Bolero singing went out of style he was forced to shine shoes for a living. When Ferrer was found for the Buena Vista Social Club documentary he was shining shoes in the streets of Havana. He was seventy years old. The Buena Vista Social Club documentary brought him fame. After the film was released he released his first solo album in 1999 and then in 2000 he was nominated for a Latin Grammy for best new artist at the age of seventy-two.

Ruben Gonzalez

“Orquesta de Enrique Jorrín” for twenty-five years, when the band's conductor died. Gonzalez took over and conducted for two years and then he retired in the 1980s. After he retired he released a few solo albums with the help of Ry Cooder and took part in the documentary The Buena Vista Social Club.

Cuban folk music traditions are still alive today, thanks in part to the Buena Vista Social Club documentary. Many of the men and women that were in the film did not get recognition for their traditional music until right before their deaths. When you listen to this music you can hear a strong sense of nationalism. There are no political songs, they are all about love affairs of the heart as well as disappointment and infidelity.


  1. ^ Orovio, Helio. (1981). Diccionario de la Música Cubana.
  2. ^ Sublette, Ned 2004. Cuba and its music: from the first drums to the mambo. Chicago.
  • Carpentier, Alejo 2001 [1945]. Music in Cuba. Minniapolis MN. Cuban music up to 1940.
  • Lemonick, Michael D.; Michael, D.; Dorfman, Andrea. "Before Columbus." Time Magazine. October 10, 1998 Vol. 152 Issue 16.
  • White, Timothy. "String of Pearls: Cuba’s Music Revolution." Billboard. February 19, 2000.
  • Chanan, Michael. "Play it Again, or Old-Time Cuban Music on the Screen." New Left Review. No. 238. Nov/Dec 1999.
  • Brozensky, Jennifer; Cabrera, Esperanza; Collins, Kristi. "Cuba and its Music." Online document. Accessed March 15, 2007. Cuba and its Music
  • Milward, John. "The Latin Invasion." Online document. Accessed April 1, 2007 [1]
  • Ruben Gonzalez obituary. Online document. Accessed April 4, 2007. [2]
  • Cooder, Ry. "Buena Vista Social Club." September 16, 1997.
  • Ferrer, Ibrehim. "Buena Vista Social Club Presents Ibrehim Ferrer." June 8, 1999.
  • Gonzalez, Ruben. "Introducing…Ruben Gonzalez." September 16, 1997.
  • Leymarie, Isabelle (2002). Cuban Fire: The Story of Salsa and Latin Jazz. New York: Continuum.  
  • Manuel, Peter Lamarche. Essays on Cuban Music: North American and Cuban Perspectives. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America. 1991.
  • Brock, Lisa. Between Race and Empire: African-Americans and Cubans before the Cuban Revolution. Temple University Press, Philadelphia, PA. 1998.

External links

  • Cubamusic

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