3 Main Characteristics Of Cuban Rumba Dance

cuban rumba dance

A secular genre of Cuban Music that involves percussion, song and dance. Cuban rumba dance originated in the northern region of Cuba, mainly in urban Matanzas and Havana since the late 19tu century. Cuban rumba dance is based on African dance and music traditions which were named yuka and Abakua. In Spanish, it is known as ‘corks de clave’. Musicologists commonly use the Rumba complex as rumba is one of the major genre complexes of Cuban music. 

Cuban rumba dance is traditionally performed on the streets and courtyards by poor workers of African descent. The key components of rumba dance are elaborate dancing, vocal improvisation and polyrhythmic drumming. The music was produced by wooden drums until the 20th century after which they were replaced by tumbadoras, which are conga drums. 

Let’s know a bit more about the Cuban rumba dance and its characteristics. So let’s begin to know about three major characteristics of Cuban rumba dance. 

Characteristics Of Cuban Rumba Dance

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Depending upon the style and the availability of the instrument the Ruma instrument has varied historically. The Ruma instruments mainly consist of two hard wooden sticks, claves and the congo drums,  Tres dos and salidor( lowest-pitched).  It also includes some common instruments like the data or guagua, wooden cylinders, shakers like the maracas, the chekere, wooden boxes etc.


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Ruma is played especially in the binary meter and it is also present in the triple meter.  In the yambu and guaguanco style, the primary one is the duple pulse and the secondary is a triple pulse. The lead drums (quaint ) and the claves are responsible for setting the rhythm. Ruma is played based on a five-stroke guide pattern which is known as claves. 

Song Structure

Yambu and guaguanco songs started with single singing music with irrational syllables instead of word-based lyrics. 

The Diana is the introduction part. And it is the most essential part as it consists of the first choral refrain. The main singer gives the leaf to the other musicians for the further choral paragraphs.  The singer who sings the essential part called Diana is responsible for the start of the rumba. 

The singer expands the lyrics which holds the reason behind their performance in the rumba. This is called the decimal, because it is mainly done in ten stanzas. Then the singer may sing the whole prepared song. Most common and popular rumba songs are” Ace Maria Morena” 

(Yambu), Cuba Linds, China De Oro, and Llora como llore. 

The songs in rumba consist mainly of two parts. First is called the canto which has the lead vocalist featuring the first verses of the song. The lead singer performs the claves. The first part is a few minutes. 


These were the three major characteristics of Cuban rumba dance. Cuban rumba dance is one of the African traditional dance forms which is gradually dying and only performed in urban Matanzas and Havana. Hopefully, this article was helpful for you knowing the Cuban rumba dance and its characteristics. 

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