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Mambo Music Guide: A History of Mambo’s Cuban Origins
What Is the History of Mambo Music?
The mambo style evolved in Havana, where leading charangas (an ensemble that plays Cuban dance music) popularized the style in the 1930s.
Emergence in Cuba:
- Cuban flutist Antonio Arcaño pioneered mambo music in the 1930s.
- Arcaño was the band leader of Arcaño y sus Maravillas—a danzón orchestra or charanga. Along with his orchestra’s primary composers.
- Orestes López and Israel “Cachao” López, Arcaño took standard danzón Cubano and added a closing section featuring the guajeos (or montunos) of son Cubano.
- which added rhythmic syncopation to a popular dance style.
- They initially called their music danzón de nuevo ritmo, which translates to “danzón with a new rhythm.” Eventually, the terms “danzón-mambo” and just plain “mambo” caught on.
- Big band leader Dámaso Pérez Prado brought mambo to international notice.
- Often referred to as “The King of Mambo,” Prado brought the mambo dance and musical genre to wide audiences thanks to hits like 1949’s “Mambo No. 5”.
- Pérez Prado enhanced the style pioneered by the Arcaño y sus Maravillas, mainly by adding the harmonic sophistication he discovered in American jazz and big band ensembles.
- He eventually settled in Mexico City, where he, along with other Cuban musicians like Benny Moré, introduced mambo to a receptive Mexican audience.
United States mambo craze
- By the late 1940s, mambo music and the mambo dance had gained favor in the United States thanks to orchestras led by Tito Puente, Tito Rodríguez, and Pérez Prado.
- One New York-based mambo group that gained particular notice was Machito, lead by Francisco Raúl Gutiérrez Grillo. Machito, Puente, Rodríguez.
- and Prado all helped make mambo an American dance craze that lasted well into the 1950s.
Essential Mambo Instruments
Mambo uses a similar instrumental ensemble to other Afro-Cuban musical genres. A rhythm section may consist of percussion instruments like bongos, congas, timbales, cowbell, claves, guiro, and a drum set. Melodies can be played by flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, and trombone. Harmonic musical instruments include guitar, double bass, and piano.
What Is the Difference Between Mambo and Salsa?
The difference between mambo music and salsa music is that, musically speaking, mambo is a sub-genre of salsa. The term “salsa” evolved to describe a wide array of musical styles from Cuba, Venezuela, and the Caribbean isles. These styles include son Cubano, danzón, rumba, cha-cha-cha, bolero, merengue, folkloric music, and even forms of Latin jazz.
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Mambo is a Cuban musical form and dance style. The word mambo (“conversation with the gods”) is the name of a priestess in Haitian Voodoo.
derived from the language of the African slaves who were imported into the Caribbean. The mambo is a musical and dance vehicle which contained the culture, religion, and identity of a people.
and lived through different regions and times to still unite individuals through harmony and understanding across all boundaries.
The fusion of swing
The fusion of swing and Cuban music produced this fascinating rhythm and in turn created a new sensational dance.
The mambo could not have been conceived earlier since up to that time, Cuban and American jazz forms were still not wedded.
The mambo is attributed to Perez Prado who introduced it at La Tropicana nightclub in Havana in 1943. Since then.
other Latin-American band leaders such as Tito Rodriquez, Pupi Campo, Tito Puente, Machito, and Xavier Cugat have achieved styles of their own and furthered the mambo craze.
first appeared in the United States in New York
The mambo first appeared in the United States in New York’s Park Plaza Ballroom—a favorite hangout of enthusiastic dancers from Harlem.
The spirited dance gained its excitement in 1947 at the Palladium and other renowned places, such as The China Doll, Havana Madrid, and Birdland.
The mambo craze did not last long, and today the mambo is much limited to advanced dancers.
Teachers agree that this is one of the most difficult of dances.
Two of the greatest contributions of the mambo is that it led to the development of the cha-cha, and as an authentic nightclub style of mambo dancing, increasingly known in the 1990s known as the salsa.
In the back country of Haiti, the mambo is a voodoo priestess, who serves the villagers as counselor, healer, exorcist, soothsayer, spiritual advisor, and organizer of public entertainment.
Mambo is the term for a female (as opposed to the Houngan, or male) priest. They are the highest form of clergy in the religion, whose responsibility it is to preserve the rituals and songs and maintain the relationship between the spirits and the community as a whole.
However, there is not a folk dance in Haiti called the “mambo.” The mambo dance originated in Cuba where there were substantial settlements of Haitians.
The history of modern mambo begins in 1938, when a song called “Mambo” was written by Orestes and Cachao López. The song was a danzón, descended from European social dances like the English country dance.
French contredanse, and Spanish contradanza, but it used rhythms derived from African folk music. The contradanza had arrived in Cuba in the eighteenth century.
where it became known as danza and grew very popular.
The 1877 song “Las alturas de Simpson” was one of many tunes that created a wave of popularity for danzón. One part of the danzón was a coda which became improvised overtime.
The bands then were brass (orquestra tipica), but was followed by smaller groups called charangas.
The most influential charanga was that of Antonio Arcano, who flourished in the late 1930s. It was Arcano’s cellist, Orestes Lopez, whose “Mambo” was the first modern song of the genre. His brother, bassist and composer Cachao López, is often described as “the inventor of the mambo.”