What Kind Of Music Do People Listen To In Cuba?

The Cuban Caribbean island of Cuba is a place that is renowned for its musical influence.

Offering a diverse range of different styles of music, you are guaranteed to find something which appeals to you.

What Kind Of Music Do People Listen To In Cuba?

If you plan on visiting the country and are curious about the types of music you will hear floating around, or even if you’re just curious, take a look below as we delve into some popular varieties of Cuban music. 

History Of Cuban Music

Before we take a look at the wealth of different musical genres offered by the country, first let’s take a look at a short history of where Cuban music originates from.

The main origins of Cuban music derive from Africa and Spain.

African slaves who were brought to Cuba by the Spaniards brought along with them many of their musical influences.

 One of the most important instruments in Cuban music today is the drum, an instrument was was infact brought over by these African slaves.

There was an African social club formed during this point for slaves called the Cabildos.

The Cabildos were responsible for preserving much of the Cuban musical history we have today, even during the Emancipation which saw these people forced to join the Catholic Church. 

As time moved on, more and more influences began to permeate Cuban music.

Many of these influences came from Europe in the form of string instruments such as the guitar.

Folk dances which had already been popular in Europe also began to influence the country’s music. 

The influence of popular music originating from Cuba such as salsa are undeniable in our culture today, becoming some of the most well-loved genres of music in the world. 

Some Popular Cuban Music

There are several different types of music genres listened to In Cuba that we will be taking a look at today.

To find out more about each of these, take a look below. 


Let’s begin with the genre of music that the region is best well-known for – salsa.

We can thank both Cuba and Puerto Rico for its popularity today. During the 1970’s, son montuno was combined with latin to give us what we would call modern salsa.

Son music is defined by themes of love and patriotism towards one’s country. It has a pulsing base and a highly distinguishable rhythm.

The lyrics normally come in lines of ten, and have a forward and reverse clove. 

Many Cuban artists have risen to stardom through their adoption of this genre, some popular names being Chucho Valdez, Juan Formell, Adalberto Alvarez, and La Charanga Habanera. 

Afro-Cuban Jazz

Afro-Cuban Jazz music is a fusion of both traditional Afro-Cuban music and American versions of jazz.

This makes it a highly progressive type of music and is the foundation of Latin jazz music in the United States. 

One of the main elements of this type of music is its distinctive jazz harmonies.

These jazz harmonies are a defining characteristic of many famous musicians of the genre such as Louis Armstrong.

Another characteristic of Afro-Cuban jazz is its clave-based rhythms, which feature the use of percussion instruments. 

Mario Bauźa, born on the 28th of April, 1911, is credited with the development of this genre, being the first to introduce Cuban music to the United States in New York City, extending the influence of the country on popular music. 


Another well-known type of music that we have today is the rumba. Some may be surprised to know that it does, in fact, originate from Cuba.

The influence of the famous ballroom dance that we witness being performed on our TV screens in dancing competitions, the rumba finds its roots from those who were working on the docks in Havana. 

There are actually three distinct types of dancing performed to rumba music.

The dances that accompany the music are called the guaguanco, the yambú, and the columbia.

Amusingly, the yambú is actually known as an old person’s dance in Cuba.

The yambú is essentially performed the same as a traditional rumba dance, but at a slower pace. 

The guaguanco is sensual Cuban dance that we all know and love, which involved a sexually charged pursuit by the male dancer.

Finally, the columbia has just one person performing it, and contains several swift and aggressive movements. 

Nueva Trova

This is a highly political type of music produced in Cuba. It began in the 60’s during a period of political turmoil for its inhabitants.

Traveling trovadores were responsible for the origins of this style of music, with famous musicians such as Nico Saquito and Carlos Puebla bringing it into cultural awareness.

Despite being a revolutionary form of music, the emotion conveyed in the music always highlighted personal rather than social feelings. 

It is thought that every popular Cuban artist in existence today plays music that has been inspired by this particular form.  

Cuban Music Festivals

Cuban Music Festivals

As you will have probably guessed, with there being so many different musical styles and influences in Cuba, the region has several different music festivals that people can attend.

If you’re thinking about attending one of these yourself, take a look below at some of the most popular in the region. 

Festival de la Trova Longina

The Festival de la Trova Longina is held in Santa Clara. It was named after a highly popular musician from Cuba called Manuel Corona.

Born in the Clara Province, Corona’s legacy is honored by the festival through a walk from Santa Clara to the town of Caibarién.

The style of music performed at this festival is called Trova. Many popular Cuban songs have been written to reflect this style of music which contains the use of the guitar. 

Havana Jazz Festival 

You may have heard of this festival despite having no previous knowledge of Cuban music. Started in 1978, it features some of the world’s most renowned jazz musicians.

The performances are held at the Casa de la Cultura Plaza, which is a colonial style building that was originally created in the 1780’s, giving the place a historic feel.

A prisoner called José Antonio Páez, now considered a republican hero, was held here for a time but managed to make an escape, freeing 115 other prisoners in the process.

Perhaps being the most important genre featured in Cuba, there is an endless supply of hot new talent in the jazz scene, and the festival contains new faces as well as highly popular talents. 

Final Thoughts

It is undeniable that Cuban music is rich, diverse, and abundant in nature.

Although initially you might not actually realize how many different genres originate from this region, once you take a closer look, there are so many different kinds out there to explore and enjoy.

If you’re feeling adventurous, why not book a ticket to one of those festivals we mentioned above, you won’t regret it!

Jim Stanton
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