Cumbia dance style

History of Cumbia

Cumbia is a musical style from Colombia and Panama that has spread to other Latin American countries such as Venezuela, Mexico, El Salvador, Ecuador, Peru and Argentina.

The dance is a synthesis of the rhythms inherited from the three cultures that make up the Comombian population, that is indigenous, African and Spanish.

Very sensual, the cumbia takes many features from African dances such as drums that will mark the pace accompanied by instruments of indigenous origin such as maracas, bongos, ocarinas, reed flutes or gaitas.

Origins of Cumbia

According to specialists, the word “cumbia” has two origins: one from the Bantu living on the island of Bioko in Equatorial Guinea and who danced the “Cumbé”, the other deriving from a word used in Cuba, ” Cumbancha “which designates a popular festival.

According to some specialists it is in the valley of the Magdalena river in Colombia, on the lands of the Pocabuy, that would be born Cumbia. But others say that the “Mother of all Caribbean dances” was created in Cartagena de Indias since it was the port of entry for settlers from Spain.

What is certain is the African origin of this dance and that it had to be born where black slaves found themselves seeking to externalize their concerns and to put themselves in touch with the natives and the Spanish colonists. is near the coast of Colombia.

The slaves of the colonies used the “Areitos”, dances accompanied by songs that were used to memorize the events and the most important characters of their history.

In its beginnings, Cumbia was performed with reed flutes, gaita, guache, maracas and drums. the original dance was to revolve around the group of musicians, women wearing a candle in each hand to scare away the males who harassed them with very explicit movements as to the content of their intentions.

On April 16, 1877, the “Cumbia Soledeña” was created, which would be the first Cumbia band in Colombia and one of the best-known songs is “Pa gozá el carnaval” which animated the Carnival of Barranquilla during the eight days that lasted the party.

According to the famous Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the first Cumbia would be the “Cumbia Sampuesana” composed by José Joaquín Bettín Martínez, a song that has been much appreciated by the Colombian writer.

The evolution of Cumbia

For musicologists, you have to differentiate between Cumbia and Cumbiamba. The first is played with a group around which women dance around wearing candles, while the Cumbiaba has incorporated accordion and network flute, women giving up candles.

In 1942, a radio from Bogotá began to broadcast a new melody known to all and with very dirty lyrics: “Se vá el Caimán .. Se vá el Caimán ….”, a song written by José María Peñaranda Márquez. This funny song will provoke a real scandal among the traditional society of Bogotá which considers this new immoral rhythm and asks that this indecent song be stopped broadcasting.
But the opposite is going to happen. The very popular song of the popular classes continues to air and will even spread throughout Latin America.

With its African roots, Cumbia is considered a musical genre that has established itself as jazz in the United States, but with its own Latin American characteristics.

From the 1940s, Colombian singers and orchestras will broadcast Cumbia to other Latin American countries such as Argentina, El Salvador, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Chile and Venezuela. .
Among these artists are Lucho Bermúdez who will make his first international release in 1946 in Buenos Aires and whose best-known song is “Danza Negra”, Los Corraleros de Majagual who formed a folkloric grope in 1962, and Los Hispanos who performed formed in 1964 in Medellin.

In 1960, Colombian clarinettist Juan Bautista Madera Castro composed the instrumental version of “La Pollera Colorá” which will be sung by Mirna Pineda, known as “La morena maravillosa”. This song will be a real success so much to be considered as the country’s second national anthem.

It was in 1960 that La Sonora Dinamita, a Colombian group from Medellín, was formed, which only disintegrated two years later, before reappearing in 1977, obtaining a huge success in Mexico.

In Mexico, the first Cumbia was recorded in 1950 with the “Cumbia cienaguera” performed by Colombian singer Luis Carlos Meyer. This new musical style will soon win and evolve even to what is now called Mexican Cumbia.

In Venezuela, Cumbia was a great success in the 1950s because of its proximity to Colombia. The first groups to perform and record cumbias in Venezuela are Los Melódicos and Billo’s Caracas Boys, which initially feature successes by Colombian musicians, then compose their own cumbias that will soon win over the Venezuelan public.

One of the most famous representatives of Venezuelan Cumbia is José Pastor López who played at the beginning with his compatriot Nelson Henríquez, who is the composer of one of the most famous cumbias: “The mentirosa”.

In Argentina, it is especially in the 1960s that Cumbia will become popular with the Colombian group Cuarteto Imperial who decides to settle in this country.
Two types of Cumbia will then develop in Argentina: the more refined and melancholy Cumbia Santafesina whose most illustrious representative is Juan Carlos Denis, and the Cumbia Villera that will arrive at the end of the 1990s, a genre that has its roots in shantytowns. Argentineans whose words most often refer to sex, drugs, alcohol and delinquency.

The most famous Cumbia santafesina group in Argentina today is certainly Los Palmeras, which was formed in 1972 under the name of Sexteto Palmeras and based its style on that of the Colombian Cumbia. The best known songs of this band are “El bombón asesino”, “La chica de rojo” and “Así no te amará jamás”.

Today, Cumbia is undoubtedly one of the most listened and danced musical styles in Latin America. Popularized in France by the advertising Nescafé which takes up in the background the song “La Colegiala” by Rodolfo y su tipica.

While women traditionally wear long skirts over their feet while dancing folk Cumbia, they are generally less dressed when it comes to dancing modern Cumbia or Cumbia Villera.

Among the artists of Cumbia most known today we can mention Carlos Vives who is very appreciative throughout Latin America with his songs that mix several styles of Colombian music such as Cumbia and Vallenato with Pop and Rock.

More recently, English DJ Will Quantic Holland traveled to Colombia to create the band “Los Miticos del Ritmo” which offers an astonishing mix of classical cumbias with electronic music.

This cumbia of a new genre, it is also found with the Argentine DJ “El Hijo de la Cumbia”, his real name Emiliano Gomez, who remixes with talent the classical rhythms with the most current sounds of Hip-Hop or dubstep .

Bomba Estéreo is also part of this new wave of electronic Cumbia. Created in 2005 in Bogotá by Simón Mejía, the group is also experimenting with Technocumbia, which will appeal to young people in nightclubs.

Peru, accustomed like most of the Andean countries to the more classical rhythms of popular Cumbia, is the home country of the group “Dengue Dengue Dengue” which also presents us a rather psychedelic electronic Cumbia.

Dancing Cumbia

Like Salsa or Merengue, popular Cumbia is dancing as a couple and in a different way to Colombian folk Cumbia. It is characterized by a delicious back and forth, the movement of the hips, short steps and many turns on oneself.

To summarize, the basic step is the same as for Salsa, but the rhythm is different: 123 … 123 … a step back, a step on the spot a step forward … a pause to transfer the body weight on the other foot and we start again.

To vary this step of very basic dance we will alter with the lateral pitch apapelé not hunted. We move the foot to the left while the right follows the movement by dragging on the ground, we repeat this action before starting in the other direction.

We will not forget the step crossed: a step to the left with the left foot, bring the right foot to the left by placing it in front of the other foot, then move the left foot to the left and bring the right foot against the left foot in a fourth time.

To better understand how to make these dance steps, watch carefully this video below and try to reproduce the movements of the dancers.


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