Cuban Music And Traditions (Ultimate Guide)

Cuba is a diverse country full of different cultures, traditions and people of different nationalities, it’s no surprise that Cuba’s culture is so varied.

Their unique and vibrant culture is influenced by Latin America, Europe, Africa and Indigenious Americans, meaning there is an array of different music and traditions you’ll find on this small island. 

Cuban Music and Traditions (Ultimate Guide)

Its storied history has also led the country to having some quirky traditions that may seem odd to us, but normal to a country that has gone through as much as Cuba has over the decades.

Cuba is typically more known for its music and dance styles and it’s had a major impact on Latin America, their music is something that the Cuban people are deeply passionate about and take great pride in.

So, in this article we’re going to be talking about the different traditions and music that exist in Cuba. 

Roots Of Caribbean Music

When Cuba was colonized by Spain it led to the Cubans becoming influenced by the Spanish dances and music.

From this the cha-cha-cha, rumba and the danzon was born and from a blend of these rhythms came the famous dance we know as the salsa.

The Spanish also brought African slaves to the island who brought their native traditions and taught these to the Cubans, and often dance accompanied these traditions.

Along with this, the Africans also brought their instruments, like the drum, which is one of the most important musical instruments in many of the music genres in Cuba. 

The Europeans also brought instruments to the island, but these were mainly string instruments, like the Spanish guitar which also plays a big role in Cuban musical genres.

Some other influences include the Chinese and French communities that lived in Cuba, and of course, the US and other countries of Latin America had considerable influence on the Cuban musical styles.

Cuban Musical Genres

Cuban Music and Traditions

Cuba is renowned for its musical genres, it’s home to many famous ones that you’ve probably heard of. Here are just a few.

The Salsa

It wasn’t actually created in Cuba, but that doesn’t make it any less popular here, salsa is probably the music Cuba is best known for.

It was introduced to Cuba in the 60s and ever since it has been an integral part of Cuban culture.

Cuban musicians who make songs in this genre often earn worldwide recognition and popularity due to its catchy beats and saucy rhythm. 

Danzon

Danzon is another popular musical genre of Cuba, it derived from a French genre of music named contredanse and evolved from the Cuban contradanza.

It is a slow, traditional dance which is rarely performed in Cuba now, but still holds a massive piece of Cuban cultural heritage.

Danzon is characteristically played by a charanga or típica ensemble, for its slowness,it  still holds a beautiful rhythm.

Son Cubano

Perhaps the most recognizable musical genre in Cuba, some people regard the son cubano as giving birth to most of the other musical genres on the island.

It’s a mixture of the Spanish and African cultures, merging the tres, which is essentially a Spanish guitar and African percussion instruments with a call and response structure.

Its rhythmic beat and call and response elements make this a unique musical genre that the Cuban people take great passion in, and it’s deeply rooted in the cultural heritage. 

Cuban Traditions

Moving on from the music, like a lot of countries, Cuba has a lot of unique traditions that may seem odd to us, but are perfectly normal to them.

Here are some of the most interesting ones the island has. 

Cuban Music and Traditions

Christmas Celebrations With No Presents

Christmas without presents sounds like a nightmare for us, but in Cuba it’s something that they actively celebrate.

Their Christmas is celebrated on Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve and it is typically celebrated with a hearty meal that consists of a suckling pig prepared in a backyard oven.

It’s a huge celebration that family, friends and neighbors will join in on, Cubans celebrate the true spirit of Christmas in this holiday.

As a result of celebrating their Christmas on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day is much more about recovering than celebrating. 

Superstitions

Superstitions are in most cultures, every single culture tends to abide by some unique beliefs about luck or bad luck.

Cubans are extremely superstitious, and many Cubans are brought up with these superstitions being played out in their day-to-day family life, such as being given an azabache to ward off the evil eye or any jealousy from side-eyeing strangers.

Or that if you see a chair rocking by itself, it’s a sign of death, so Cuban children would often have to make sure that the chair was stationary as soon as they got up.  

Another unique superstition is Cubans will not pick up a penny if it is dropped, we all know the American superstition that picking up a penny is considered good luck, but to a Cuban picking it up is the worst thing that you can do, because if it was dropped, then it’s probably due to the evil eye. 

The ‘Money Dance’

Since Cuba is a communist country, weddings are civil ceremonies and non-religious, still that doesn’t mean weddings aren’t an amazing event.

If you are lucky enough to go to a Cuban wedding, you may see the bride with quite a bit of money pinned to her dress.

This sweet custom is to give the bride and groom a helping hand with the costs of their honeymoon and their new life together, males wishing to dance with the bride will have to pin money onto her dress.

It’s such a compassionate and interactive gesture that it’s also tradition in a few other countries, namely Greece, Poland and even some parts of the US.

Burning The Negative Experiences Away On New Year’s Eve

If you happen to be in Cuba on New Year’s Eve, then you may witness Cubans gathering around a burning scarecrow, also known as the muñecone.

This is a straw effigy that is lit on fire at midnight to purge any of the bad experiences from the past year and bring in a nice, fresh start to the new year. 

So, if you see a human-shaped doll burning in a fire, don’t be alarmed, it’s just the Cuban people burning away the negativity of the past year! 

Taking A Suitcase Out For A Walk

If you want to do some traveling in the new year, then taking a stroll with your suitcase is a must.

Cubans wanting to take a trip will walk around the block with their suitcase that has their luggage in, which increases the luck of traveling within the next year.

So if you want that holiday, get walking with your suitcase! 

Final Thoughts

Cuba has a rich and diverse culture that extends itself to music and traditions, the mix of the different cultures Cuba has been influenced by provides some amazing music and interesting traditions.

If you’re going to Cuba soon, you should definitely take part in a few of their traditions and customs and  listen to their beautifully rhythmic and diverse music.

Jim Stanton
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