Boulder-Cuba Sister City Organization :
spacerBoulder Cuba Sister City Organization [Home]
banner photo

Music and Dance Committee


The Music and Dance Committee promotes the appreciation and celebration of Cuban music and dance. The Committee’s primary project has been the co sponsoring of the Cuban Connection FUNdraiser, along with St. John’s Episcopal church’s Caribbean Outreach project. The Cuban Connection features live music, dance lessons, and Cuban food and drink. The proceeds from this event help fund other projects carried out by the Sister City Organization. The Fifth Cuban Connection is November 4, 2006 at the St. Julien Hotel. In 2005 BOCUSCO sponsored the SOBO Latin Dance Festival, featuring dance workshops and free live latin music in South Boulder's Table Mesa shopping plaza. This festival has become the SOBO Summer Fest, hosted by the Southern Sun, with proceeds going to Boulder-Cuba Sister City Organizationand the Boulder County AIDS Project. The next SOBO Summer Fest is scheduled for June 9, 2007.

Other music related events include community talks. During one event Stephen Foehr, a local writer and author of Dancing with Fidel, provided an overview of Cuban music. See below for an excerpt of his talk. During another event, a local photographer presented photos from a recent trip to Cuba as well as Changüí music from Yateras. As part of our cultural exchanges, Changüí musicians from Yateras entertained several groups of people from Boulder when they visited the area. Click below to hear an example of changüí.

( updated October 2006)

About Music in Yateras

Changüí music by the Estrellas Campesinas from Yateras
  -or-   Click here to download MP3 (4mb)

Yateras is the home of “changüi”, the traditional rural dance music of Guantánamo province. The instruments consist of the “tres” which is the Cuban guitar with three sets of double strings, maracas, bongo, “guayo” made from metal rather than a hollowed out gourd, and African inspired “marímbula” which serves as bass and percussion. The lyrics invite listeners to dance and have a good time while celebrating local traditions and the changüi itself. Two well-known changüi groups from Yateras are “Las estrellas campesinas” from the small town of Felicidad, and “El Grupo Changüi.” The Sister City Organization has a CD of changüi music from Yateras for sale or donation. Click above link to sample changüí music.


Roots of Cuban Music

The two foundation stones of Cuban music are Spanish and African musical heritage. The Spanish derived quiriba is perhaps the oldest root of Cuban music. Once thought to be extinct, this musical form was rediscovered in 1982 at a pig roast in a farming village near Baracoa in southeast Cuba. The songs consist of a narrative line, verse, and chorus. The instruments – bass, guitar and drum – repeated simple rhythmic cells, much like the basic blues.

The son is the primary root of non-African modern-day Cuban music. Its home is in the rural areas. It is very satirical, full of double meanings and humor and spontaneous in its improvisations. A close cousin to son is nengon, another rural-based music linked to quiriba. Nengon, most often heard at farm parties, is a running musical narrative improvised on the spot, often satirical and ironic, that pokes fun at people’s pretensions and foibles.

A quick sketch of the Cuban music tree would be: quiriba-son-nengon. From this trunk branches off contradanza-danzon-habanera. The mambo was created directly from the danzon, with its French-Haitian-African-Spanish influences. The chachacha comes form the mambo. The tango is derived from the contradanza, as is the meringue of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Salsa is also an outgrowth of the contradanza, which has its roots in Old English folk dances by way of the French royal court in the early 1600s. The salsa actually originated in Uruguay when it was province of Argentina. Afro-Cuban roots extend to West African music brought to the New World by African enslaved peoples. The polyrhythms, syncopation, polymer-couplets and fast five-beat of Cuban drumming come directly from African traditions. The Santeria bata drumming is an excellent example. Abakua dancing, chants and drumming is the other major African influence in Cuban music.

The rumba is an indigenous Cuban dance with its taproot in Africa. There three kinds of authentic Cuban rumba: yambu, guaguanco, and columbia. Yambu, the oldest of the three dances, is the slowest, purposively so older men can follow the steps of the young woman encouraging him to be young and vital again. This dance comes from the Abakua tradition.

Guaguanco is a vigorous couple’s dance, a dance of seduction, in which the man attempts to “vaccinate” the women. It is a graphic dance of flirtation, male posturing, and female coyness. The woman has the final say in accepting the man’s offer. Columbia is a solo male performance to display virtuosity, male prowess and dancing skills. The most African of the rumbas, the columbia started with sugar cane workers around Matanzas. As there were no women in the cane camps, the men danced alone as a form of aesthetic sporting competition. By Stephen Foehr (author of Dances with Fidel, available at


Photo Gallery

Music and Dance photos