Caribbean Currents: Caribbean Music from Rumba to Reggae:Caribbean Currents: PETER MANUEL, with KEN- traditions to rumba, son (the most popular. Caribbean currents: Caribbean music from rumba by Peter Manuel. Caribbean currents: Caribbean music from rumba to reggae. by Peter Manuel; Michael D. Caribbean Currents: Caribbean Music from Rumba to Reggae by Peter Manuel; Kenneth Bilby; Michael Largey. Article in World of Music 42(1)
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First published in , Caribbean Currents has become the definitive guide to the distinctive musics of this region of the world. This third edition of the. Caribbean currents: Caribbean music from rumba to reggae. by: Manuel, Peter, ; Bilby, Kenneth M., ; Largey, Michael D., Ma nuel, Caribbean Currents, THIRD EDITION, December Ethnomusicology. PETER MANUEL is Professor of Music at John Jay College and the.
Both volumes also pro- contribute additional chapters. Palau Marti does a fine job of making the sic. Largey provides an informed and engaging books understandable to readers with no back- chapter about Haiti and the French Caribbean.
She also successfully represents tween dance and music. In a longer, thoughtful the complex influences of other cultural groups, chapter Manuel discusses a subject close to his such as the Boko-Bariba and Mahi. If any scholar of heart: Cuban music. He provides a full picture of Cuban music, from con- tradanza a 19th-century Cuban salon music and Caribbean Currents: Caribbean Music from dance genre and the music of Afro-Cuban religious Rumba to Reggae.
Al- though Manuel includes the guaguancd clave in his Peter Manuel, respected ethnomusicologist and discussion of rumba pp.
This experiential knowledge, com- two, p. Nonetheless, the rest of the description bined with a broad familiarity with the region's so- of the rumba is colorful and interesting and pro- ciopolitical history, provides a good model for fu- vides an accurate context for this important per- ture scholars of Caribbean music. Manuel is a talented and versatile scholar who is Although the book is useful for general students able to assimilate vast amounts of information and of Caribbean music, it proves frustrating at times for whose familiarity and experience extend well be- more informed readers.
Manuel thanks the many yond the Caribbean to include popular musics of scholars from whom he has "drawn heavily" in his the non-Western world. His latest work might have work p.
Sidney W. Although it is true that a preponderance of more, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, , footnotes might daunt the Caribbean music neo- would have been an excellent addition to his rec- phyte, Manuel may have erred in having too few. It ommended reading list, for it elaborates on several is particularly difficult to locate Manuel's informa- of the important themes Manuel outlines in his last tion within its original context in the far-reaching chapter.
An ambitious and worthy endeavor over- introduction. For example, he asserts that historians all, Caribbean Currents: Caribbean Music from have estimated that the 15th-century population of Rumba to Reggae is a useful and accessible text for the Caribbean region was "somewhere between students and enthusiasts alike.
The discrepancy between the text and Meaning in Social Inquiry. Chicago: University of Chi- as confusing for students of the Caribbean as it is for cago Press, Precisely because these figures are hotly figures, tables, references, indexes.
WHITE the Americas in , Madison: University of Wis- McGill University consin Press, , as well as works that deal with Anthropologists rarely have the opportunity to the equally important demographics of the slave see how ethnography is used and understood out- trade from Africa to the Americas for example, side of the field of anthropology. A related characteristic is the technique of building a piece on repetition, especially of a short musical cell, or ostinato.
Variety can be provided by altering the pattern or by combining it with another feature, such as a narrative text, responsorial singing, or a drum solo. Pieces using this format are open-ended, additive entities, loosely expandable or compressible in accordance with the desires of the performers, the audience, or the occasion.
This sort of structure contrasts with that of most European-derived music from sonatas to Frank Sinatra ballads in which a song or piece has a finite, symmetrical structure, such as the thirty-two-bar AABA form typical of American popular song.
The legacy of African dance in the Caribbean has been almost as strong as that of music. As with music, it is difficult to generalize about dance styles in regions as diverse as West and Central Africa, and even comparable neo- African dances in the Caribbean, such as Puerto Rican bomba and Cuban rumba, seem to have relatively little in common in terms of specific moves.
Moreover, as with music, there is practically no documentation of African dancing during the slavery period, and caution must be exercised in attempting to speculate about African dance of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by looking at current traditional dances in that continent. Nevertheless, certain safe assumptions can be made about the African choreographic practices that the slaves brought to the Caribbean.
An initial feature is the sheer popularity and centrality of dancing in traditional African cultures, in contrast to much of colonial-era Europe, where dancing was denounced by the church as immoral. Another conspicuous feature of African traditional dance is the general absence of couple dancing. Dance events in traditional African contexts have emphasized community solidarity rather than individuals or couples; hence, they typically have been structured as collective line dances, circle dances, or formats in which individuals take turns dancing in front of drummers as others stand around them and sing a common format that has persisted in Afro-Caribbean dances like rumba, bomba, and gwoka.
Much traditional African dancing has also featured hip movement, which, according to one theory, represented a celebration of fertility and sensuality appropriate to a perilous and pestilential environment marked by high infant mortality. However, Africans and their Caribbean descendants had their own notions of what constituted 34 Introduction 11 indecency, and while Europeans tended to regard neo-african dancing as lewd, several accounts attest to Afro-Caribbeans regarding as vulgar the European custom of couple dancing while touching.
Patterns of Musical Retention The sort of classic polyrhythm shown in Musical Example 1, although common in Afro-Cuban and Haitian religious music, is unusual in most Caribbean creole and popular music forms. These generally use simpler, duple-metered rhythms, although they are often animated by syncopations and cross-rhythms influenced, however indirectly, by older polyrhythmic forms.
The degree to which neo-african traits like polyrhythms are retained in contemporary musics depends on various factors and raises broad questions about the relative ability and desire of Afro-Caribbean communities in different regions to maintain cultural autonomy over the generations. Why, for example, are polyrhythms and neo-african musics so common in Haiti, with its population of only 10 million, when such features have long since disappeared from the music of the much larger Afro-American population of the United States, which now numbers more than 40 million?
Why are such musics so strong in Cuba, with its large white population, and far less common in overwhelmingly black Jamaica?
Why do we find certain Africanderived features in one part of the Caribbean and other features elsewhere? Many factors are involved in answering such questions, which have engaged the interest of scholars for decades.
We can start with the last question, which in some respects is the simplest. Although most slave communities combined people of diverse ethnic origins, in certain regions slaves from one distinct area of Africa predominated. For example, in the early s, the collapse of the great Yoruba Oyo kingdom led to that people s subjugation by the Dahomey and other rival groups, who sold many Yoruba as slaves to the Europeans.
The British, however, had withdrawn from the slave trade by this time; as a result, the tens of thousands of captured Yoruba went primarily to Iberian-ruled Cuba and Brazil, whose imports continued through the s.
Accordingly, Yoruba-derived music and religion are much more prominent in those countries than in the former British colonies or in Haiti, whose slave imports ended with the Haitian Revolution in the s. In this same way, the cultural heritages of Akan and Congolese slaves, from the Gold Coast and Central Africa, respectively, are more influential in Jamaica.
A more problematic issue is whether the different policies and attitudes of individual colonial powers allowed for different degrees of African cultural retention. This question overlaps with a hypothesis, first argued in the 35 12 Chapter s by historian Frank Tannenbaum, that slavery in the Roman Catholic colonies especially those of Spain and Portugal was milder than in the British and Dutch colonies.
This Tannenbaum thesis has been rehashed and re-bashed by subsequent scholars. Critics have pointed out that there are several criteria by which the severity of slavery should be measured.
In terms of diet, longevity, and reproduction rates, for example, the North American slaves seem to have fared considerably better than Caribbean and Brazilian ones.
In other respects, however, practices and attitudes in the Iberian and, to some extent, the French colonies may have favored greater degrees of cultural autonomy for blacks. For one thing, it was much easier for slaves in Spanish colonies to buy their own freedom in a practice called manumission than it was in North America, and slave owners were much more likely to free their mulatto children. By the early s, the large communities of free blacks in Cuba and elsewhere were able to form socioreligious clubs cabildos and maintain considerable cultural independence, including traditional musical practices.
Of greater relevance to the study of music than matters of diet and the like is the argument that the Iberian and French colonists may have been culturally more tolerant of neo-african practices than were the northern European slave owners. Counter-Reformation Iberian Catholicism, with its elements of saint worship, ritual, and folk beliefs, blended more easily with African religions than did Enlightenment-oriented and inflexible Protestantism. The early Spanish and Portuguese colonists, unlike the bourgeois, more economically advanced English, were in some ways premodern, precapitalist peoples who, however racist in their own way, seem to have recognized Africans as human beings with their own culture.
Unlike the inbred, blue-eyed, ethnically isolated English, the olive-complected southern Europeans had a certain Mediterranean cosmopolitan nature bred from centuries of contact with diverse Arabs, Jews, Gypsies, and Africans according to this hypothesis. However, there are other factors that may better explain the different degrees of African retentions in the New World.
One of these concerns the 36 Introduction 13 difference between plantation colonies like Jamaica, whose pre-emancipation populations consisted primarily of slaves, and settler colonies like Cuba, which had a more diverse balance of whites, free blacks and mulattos, and slaves. In Jamaica, slaves, who constituted about 90 percent of the population in , were subject to rigid cultural repression and could exert little cultural influence on local whites.
In contrast, sugar plantations came relatively late to Cuba and had to adapt themselves to the already well formed and more lenient creole culture with its substantial free black population 20 percent in The communities of free Afro-Cubans played important roles in preserving neo-african culture, including musical practices based in the cabildos. Perhaps the most important factor involved in the different degrees of African retentions is the time that has elapsed in the various areas of the Caribbean since the end of slave imports.
In the British colonies, importation of slaves ended in , and by the s, there were very few African-born slaves in the United States. Hence, it was natural for neo-african practices in British colonial areas to weaken during the subsequent long period of isolation from Africa.
Cuba, by contrast, continued to receive slaves and fresh infusions of African culture as late as and even after that, a handful of freed blacks were able to visit their West African homelands and return to Cuba with artifacts and replenished knowledge.
Most Cuban blacks are descendants of slaves brought in the s, and quite a few know the specific ethnic ancestry of some of their forebears. Similarly, the only neo-african religion in Trinidad, Shango, or Orisha worship, survives as the legacy not of the slave period but of Yoruba indentured servants who arrived in the mid- s. Haitian slave imports also ended early, in the s, but at the time of the Haitian Revolution most slaves were African-born, and the subsequent absence of Europeans allowed neo-african culture to flourish unimpeded.
Thus, the cultural attitudes of the colonists, although not insignificant, were only one among many factors influencing the nature and degree of African retentions in the New World. The European Heritage The other primary ingredient in the formation of Caribbean music consists of the diverse forms of music introduced by the European colonists primarily the Spanish, British, and French.
These forms included not only the 37 14 Chapter 1 well-documented classical music of the era but also, more importantly, the various folk and popular songs and dances of contemporary Europe.
Thus, more influential than the rarefied music of Bach and Beethoven were the sailors chanteys, church hymns, military marches, and, especially, social dances like the quadrille and contradance.
The contradance country dance, contredanse, contradanza , after originating in England in the s, came to be energetically cultivated throughout Europe by both elites and the emerging bourgeoisie, replacing open-couple dances like the dainty minuet and the once scandalous zarabanda. Along with the related quadrille and other set i. In terms of choreography, the contradance variants were initially line dances, with men and women arrayed in longways format, as in a Virginia-reel square dance.
As this format blended easily with compatible African dance traditions, Caribbean contradance incarnations came to be accompanied by a wide variety of music styles, from the thunderous neo-african drumming of Haitian-Cuban tumba francesa to folksy West Indian reels played by ad hoc ensembles of fiddles, banjos, and fifes.
In the mid-nineteenth century, ballroom-style couple dancing gradually became popular, following the trend established by the waltz in Europe. Several of these European musical genres shared some of the aforementioned features associated with African music. Indeed, scholars have commented on the considerable degree of compatibility between African and European musics.
Two- and three-part vocal harmony occurs in African as well as in European traditional music, while Protestant hymns used calland-response lining out compatible with African practices. The French and Spanish, like many African communities, also had traditions of seasonal carnivals with festive music. Further, most European folk musics, like African music, consisted of orally transmitted traditions rather than written ones. Perhaps as a result of such precedents, oral poetry especially as sung has long played a much more prominent role in Caribbean culture than in more developed countries like the United States, where poetry is cultivated by only college English majors and a few literati.
Indeed, Caribbean popular 38 Introduction 15 culture in general is primarily oral rather than written. For that matter, the same can be said of Caribbean politics, with its prominence of gifted orators, from Eric Williams to Fidel Castro. The nature and extent of European influence have varied in accordance with several factors, some of which have already been mentioned for example, the distinction between culturally repressive plantation colonies, where large slave populations were managed by handfuls of white entrepreneurs, and settler colonies, which attracted substantial numbers of European immigrants.
In the settler category, with some qualifications, would fall Cuba and Puerto Rico, which received hundreds of thousands of European immigrants. These settlers primarily but not only Spanish brought a rich spectrum of European musics with them and, over the generations, played crucial roles in developing distinctive creole cultures in their new homelands.
The British colonies, in contrast, attracted relatively few settlers. Most of those who came were what historian Gordon Lewis pithily described as scum that is, social derelicts and mountebanks out to make a quick killing in the tropics.
For their part, the British upper-class owners and managers were generally absentees who came for limited periods, remaining attached to England, where they invested their earnings and sent their children to be educated. The contrast between the two sorts of colonies could be seen in their cities: Colonial Havana was an opulent and beautiful metropolis with fine cathedrals, mansions, and promenades, whereas the British Caribbean ports consisted of dreary warehouses surrounded by shantytowns, with a few bleak barns passing as the great houses of the rich.
Similarly, because the British colonial elites made little attempt to develop their own art forms, it may be said that the musical heritages transmitted by the Spanish to Cuba and Puerto Rico were considerably richer than whatever the British bequeathed to their colonies. In general, the European heritage brought to the Caribbean included instruments, chordal harmony, sectional formal structures rather than the reliance on cellular ostinatos , concepts of ensemble orchestration and arrangement, the practice of notating music, and a vast repertoire of written and orally transmitted music.
New World Africans, while retaining many types of African drums, generally adopted the stringed and wind instruments played by Europeans. The Spanish musical heritage was particularly distinctive and influential. One might expect this heritage to include flamenco, the most famous kind of Spanish music, but flamenco, a product primarily of urban Andalusian gypsies and lumpen lowlifes, did not emerge until the latter s, and there is no evidence that it was transmitted to the Caribbean in the colonial period.
The transition from being an African or a European to being a Caribbean is a key process in the formation of Caribbean culture and music, embodied in the term creolization, which connotes the development of a distinctive new culture out of the prolonged encounter of two or more other cultures. The process is also described as syncretism, although creolization is particularly appropriate in the Americas, and especially in the Caribbean, due to the long usage of the term creole there and its ability to suggest some of the complex sociocultural issues also involved in the process.
This language is termed a creole when it becomes a native tongue to later generations, who may forget or lose contact with the original languages. This process is more than, say, the mixing of blue and yellow to make green, since people are active, creative agents, not inert chemicals, and the new human product, whether a language or a musical style, takes on a life of its own.
Creolization as extended more broadly to musical and cultural processes rather than just to language also tends to involve a certain selfawareness, well evident in the Haitian verse quoted earlier. More subtly, Caribbean creole cultures, rather than being backwaters of the Western world, are in some ways quintessentially modern, with their self-conscious hybridity and often dramatic sense of rupture with the inherited, unquestioned traditions from the past. Further, the Caribbean people s traditional consciousness, of being at once part of and separate from the Euro-American mainstream, and their ability to combine premodern African and New World features, have accounted for much of the extraordinary expressive power of Caribbean arts, especially music.
Caribbean creolization has primarily involved the encounter between descendants of Africans mostly from West Africa and the Congo and Euro- 40 Introduction 17 peans mostly Spanish, British, and French. Other groups, such as the East Indians, the Chinese, and the Dutch, have also played roles, some of which we consider later.
There have been various stages and subsidiary developments in the creolization process. One can speak of an initial stage in which new forms of both neo-african and European-derived musics began to develop in the Caribbean.
Cuban rumba can be regarded as such a genre, evolving partly through the interaction of slaves from different African regions. European influence is obvious in many melodies and the use of the Spanish language, but in other respects the rumba is essentially neo-african.
It is not, however, a European genre but a Puerto Rican one and has been celebrated as a symbol of Puerto Rican nationalism. Both the danza and the rumba, in a very preliminary sort of way, are creole entities. A more definitive sort of creolization occurs when African- and European-derived musical styles and elements combine in more overt and balanced ways. In many cases, this creative mixing started among the Afro-Caribbean lower classes, whose products, such as the Cuban son and Dominican merengue, were generally denounced by Eurocentric elites whether white, black, or mulatto.
In the typical pattern, these lower-class, syncretic forms gradually percolate upward, acquiring more musical sophistication and eventually coming to be enjoyed by the upper classes. When all classes and races of a given population come to embrace local syncretic genres whether merengue, reggae, calypso, the son, or the Puerto Rican plena as nationalistic symbols, then one can truly speak of a creole national musical culture.
The evolution and acceptance of creole musics in the Caribbean have thus been closely bound up with nationalism and elite recognition of the Afro-Caribbean heritage.
Cuban nationalists, for example, prized the local contradanza partly because it was their own, creole invention rather than an archaic product of despised Spain; part of what distinguished the contradanza was the use, whether diluted or overt, of recognizably Afro-Caribbean syncopations. To the modern ear, the genre may sound tame and quaint, but many negrophobic purists, because 41 18 Chapter 1 of the music s bouncy Afro-Caribbean rhythm, denounced it as barbaric, grotesque, and somehow foreign.
Other obscurantists tried to legitimize it by falsely attributing its distinctive rhythm to Taino influence. In subsequent years, the attainment of political power by black and mulatto leaders further legitimized Afro-Caribbean culture.
Afro-Caribbean music and musicians have played active roles in redefining their national senses of identity. It should be kept in mind that musical creolization in the Caribbean was a complex process that did not just happen. Instead, it was inextricably conditioned by the power dynamics of the social groups involved. Historically, creolization depended on an attitude of cultural openness and flexibility, on the parts of both dominant whites and subaltern people of color.
The plantation owner s house, with its socially intermediate stratum of domestic slaves, would constitute one site for cultural interaction. Another would be the military band, in which musicians of diverse races and backgrounds would learn to play clarinet, cornet, and other instruments to perform marches and contradances at both military and civilian events.
Port towns such as Havana would be particularly active sites of cross-fertilization, with their lively interactions of local and visiting musicians of various races and regions.
Receptivity to new musical ideas could also be instilled from above, as when colonial policies dictated a rupture with the past, whether through prohibitions or persuasion. The British were especially effective at getting their slaves to adopt a colonial mentality that regarded everything African as backward. Hence, after describing the African-style dancing to the gumbay drum, a visitor to Jamaica in remarked, In a few years it is probable that the rude music here described will be altogether exploded among the creole [local-born] negroes, who show a decided preference of European music.
The St. Lucian poet and Nobel laureate Derek Walcott has written eloquently both of the tragedy of such cultural loss and of the brilliant creativity that it subsequently inspired: In 42 Introduction 19 time the slave surrendered to amnesia. That amnesia is the true history of the New World. In the twentieth century, urbanization, emigration, the mass media, and the internationalization of capital brought new dimensions to musical syncretism in the Caribbean.
Gone are the days of isolated peasant communities cultivating their traditional creole songs in ignorance of the wider musical world. And of course, the Internet has taken musical globalization to an exponentially greater level of intensity.
As radio signals and digital content crisscross the sea, musical trends spread and proliferate in weeks, not decades, and geographic, linguistic, and international boundaries seem to melt into cyberspace. In metropolitan hubs such as New York, Toronto, and London, immigrants mingle with one another and with longtime locals, developing intricate multiple senses of identity reflected in the most eclectic musical tastes. Meanwhile, musical styles and influences cross-pollinate and multiply, spawning every conceivable sort of fusion, from bachatas in English to merengues in Hindi.
As creolization reaches a new level and the internal and external musical borders of the region dissolve, any book that attempts to take stock of the contemporary music scene is doomed to rapid obsolescence. But snapshots have their own utility, and the authors of this book have done their best to cover the present as well as the past, starting with the largest and most influential island of all. Other useful pan-regional sources include Susanna Sloat, ed.
Since my previous visits in earlier decades, much has stayed the same, though some changes are evident. Havana remains, to my eye, possibly the most beautiful city in the Americas, with its broad avenues and stately colonial-era edifices. There are more tourists Canadians, Europeans, Venezuelans, and even Americans and many more restaurants and hotels to serve them. There are still few vehicles on the streets, which makes for a peaceful atmosphere but also indicates the dismal state of public transport of any sort.
Indeed, each day of my visit I seem to end up walking several miles just to get wherever I m going. Amazingly, the s DeSotos and Thunderbirds are still chugging along, miraculously kept running by Cuban ingenuity and a local cottage industry producing spare parts for otherwise extinct vehicles.
I chat with Carlos, the owner of an Edsel parked on the street, telling him, uselessly, that he could sell the car for good money in the United States if it weren t for the ongoing trade embargo imposed by Washington.
Normally I avoid talking politics in Cuba, but he is an elderly Afro-Cuban who speaks volubly about the bad old days before the Revolution when he wouldn t be allowed to enter the nice restaurants or swim at the nearby beach. But now there is a whole younger generation of people, raised during the special period, who are less interested in socialist ideals than in being 44 Cuba 21 part of modern, cosmopolitan Latino youth culture.
Carlos sneers as our conversation is drowned out by a passing car whose booming stereo pumps out the current music of choice: reggaeton. I myself have come to Cuba to hear things I can t find so easily in New York, so I make my way to the uniquely charming old city, parts of which have been nicely restored, while others are full of collapsed buildings whose rubble spills out into the streets.
Several of the open-air restaurants feature old-timey Buena Vista type son groups that have been the tourists favorite ever since Ry Cooder s eponymous film and record of the late s. At the Plaza de Armas, a large brass band is playing a potpourri of European light classical pieces and nineteenth-century Cuban contradanzas, enlivened by rowdy creole rhythms played on the timpani. The tubas are as battered as the T-Birds, but the playing is sweet and professional.
For the evening, the younger members of my group are heading off to some of the spiffy dance clubs that have sprung up in recent years, with deejays offering reggaeton, timba, and American hits to tourists and the new breed of Cubans who can somehow afford it.
I will pass that option up, as well as the joyously kitsch cabarets at the Tropicana and the Havana Libre Hotel, which I ve seen before. These are semiprivate affairs, so this invitation is not to be passed up. Our Cuban friend soon arrives to take us in his car to Matanzas, a nearby town famous for its Afro-Cuban traditions.
It is dark when we reach our destination, a nondescript, one-story private home in a black neighborhood. About fifty people are crowded into the yard, and the atmosphere is festive. Roughly half of those present, mostly women, are either singing a refrain in call and response with a lead vocalist or dancing in a roughly circular fashion.
Drowning out their voices are the instruments three drums that look like oversized congas, two cowbells, and a tambourine. I soon deduce that the person to watch is the lead drummer, who is improvising, beating the drum with a stick in his right hand and the palm of his left. I am mesmerized by his playing, in which he repeatedly starts a basic pattern, twists it around in different syncopations, and then abandons it for another, while different duple and triple pulses in the polyrhythmic accompaniment come in and out of focus.
Finally, his playing reaches a crescendo as he works up to a frenetic acrobatic passage. It seems as if electricity sweeps through the yard as people 45 22 Chapter 2 whoop and cheer, and two women dancing in front of me stiffen and collapse into the arms of their neighbors, their eyes glazing over.
The music stops and their friends, laughing, guide them into the house, where they pass the next few hours in a trance, awakening later to remember nothing.
The Cuban Crucible The array of musical events happening on any given weekend in Havana is representative of the extraordinary richness and diversity of Cuban musical culture. In the nineteenth century, the Cuban habanera charmed European audiences and famously worked its way into Georges Bizet s opera Carmen. In the mid-twentieth century, Cuban dance music dominated urban Africa, and it has continued to flourish in all of the Spanish-speaking countries of the Caribbean Basin, providing the backbone for salsa.
Within the Caribbean itself, Cuba s influence is perhaps not surprising, as it is the largest island.
But its remarkable musical richness seems to derive from other factors, including the way that African and European musics have been able to mix and enrich each other. Since the mid-nineteenth century, Cuba s population has consisted of relatively even proportions of whites, blacks, and mulattos.
By the s, the native Taino and Ciboney Indians had effectively perished, along with their language, culture, and music, including the areito dances. Over the subsequent centuries of Spanish rule, Cuba, unlike most of the British West Indies, received large numbers of European settlers mostly from Spain, including the Canary Islands.
These colonists brought with them a wealth of European music, from opera and classical music to Spanish folksongs. At the same time, conditions favored the dynamic flourishing of neo- African music in Cuba. For one thing, even though the nineteenth-century plantation bosses worked most slaves to death within ten years of their arrival, over the generations slave owners also allowed many to buy their own freedom, and they tended to free the mulatto offspring of the children they sired with slaves.
As a result, by the early eighteenth century Cuban towns hosted large communities of free blacks and mulattos. These, together with urban slaves, were allowed to celebrate various sorts of musical and religious festivities, especially in the cabildos mutual-aid societies. The Spanish authorities and Catholic church generally tolerated the cabildos, partly because they tended to divide the blacks along ethnic and religious lines, thereby lessening the chance of unified slave revolts.
Most rural slaves, despite brutal 46 Cuba 23 work schedules, were also allowed to sing, drum, and dance as they wished on their days off, and many were even permitted to leave their plantations to attend fiestas. Moreover, while the importation of slaves to the United States and the British colonies had dwindled by , most Cuban slaves especially the Yoruba were brought in the subsequent sixty years, so that neo-african musical traditions continued to be invigorated by fresh infusions of captives.
Under such conditions, both traditional African and European music were able to flourish in Cuba, at the same time being creatively combined and reworked by musicians into a variety of syncretic styles in a process dubbed transculturation by ethnologist Fernando Ortiz.