Cuba was discovered in 1492 by Christopher Columbus and was inhabited by Native Americans. They were exterminated at the hands of colonists themselves, leaving the island and its farms without the labor force. This new condition forced the Spanish to import African slaves to work in agriculture, increasing the total to 66,000 between the years 1521 and 1763, and to grow to even large population until the abolition of slavery in 1886. Over the years, the relationship between these cultures, both European and African, resulted in one culture with its own identity, expressed in the concept of “Cuban-ness” (“cubanidad”) (Maya Roy, 2002). There are many questions that this paper will address: How did this historical condition produce one of the richest rhythms and styles in the world? What do we need to understand in listening and performing this music? Even though the black slaves mostly came from the same regions of Africa and converted to the same religion, how can we find notable musical differences, for example, between Cuba and Colombia? As it is happening again now, the political and social systems in Cuba are going through a qualitative process not seen since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. There is a new mixture of new rhythms taking place at this moment, which has been evident for years. Because of isolation in these last fifty years, Cuba and its new musical encounter with the world will bring new rhythm and styles that may require further insight into the basic musical and cultural structures.
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