LA RUMBA BUENA TE ESTA LLAMANDO
[Good ol’ rumba’s callin’ you]
by Philip “Felipe” Pasmanick
©11-22-96 English version 1.0 12-28-97 911 wds
La rumba es especial
The rumba has a special place
de los dominios de Apolo
In Apollo’s wide domain.
es un elemento solo
While it is just a single element
del concierto universal
of the universal concert,
en ello no tiene rival (¡guaguancó!)
it is unrivalled therein
por lo bello y lo profundo
for its beauty and profundity.
si en este glorioso mundo
Why, in all our glorious world
no se ha visto cosa igual.
no one has ever seen the like.These elegant verses, as sung by the outstanding Cuban folkloric group YorubaAndabo, express pride and love for an afro-cuban cultural phenomenon often ignoredor disdained by society at large. Daughter of the African three-drum ensemble andhispano-moorish vocal esthetics,
endures in Cuba and throughout the world.Guaguancó, the best known of the three rumba rhythms, emerged in Havana in thefirst decades of the 20th century. Born from the secretive
s (Afro-cubanreligious associations), it was seen first in enormous
coros de guaguancó
and later inthe present-day ensemble featuring a half-dozen singers and percussion: three congadrums, claves, and
(sticks which play a pattern on any hard surface).The two lower-pitched drums maintain a base of repetitive rhythmic “melodies”combined with improvised “conversation”, all held rigorously to the beat of the clave.The high lead drum, the
, improvises fills and extended solos working off of thesinger, the lead dancer, and the conversations of the other drums. A chorus of three orfour men and women and a soloist provide the harmonic, melodic, and textualelements. In a party (rumba’s natural element), a succession of percussionists, singersand dancers compete to defend or promote their status as the outstanding performer of the moment.In the guaguancó dance, a single couple participates in a stylized game of erotic tag, inwhich a woman must, with all naturalness and grace, attract her partner yet avoid his“
”, a sudden sexual approach with a hand, a foot, or a pelvic thrust. Thevacunao is executed without lewdness or physical contact, and a good vacunao (orequally, a suave defensive move) excites laughter and admiration among the spectators.In rumba columbia, a variation in 6/8 from the province of Matanzas, a single dancer,traditionally a male, carries out a sequence of moves which in their competitiveness andstylized qualities share something of contemporary break dancing. The third commonrumba variant,
, is usually played on wooden boxes (
) and is slower andmore relaxed. Like the guaguancó, it is a couple dance, but as the singer reminds thedancers from time to time, “
el yambú no se vacuna
” (the yambú has no vacunao).