History of Mambo
The Mambo is a Cuban musical style that was created in the 1930s and made popular in Havana by musicians Cachao, Dámaso Pérez Prado, José Curbelo and Benny Moré.
Derived from Cuban Sound and Montuno Sound, the Mambo dances on a 4/4 rhythm and is played with trumpets, saxophones, timpani, bongos, congas, maracas, guiros, cencerros, bass and a piano.
While Mambo lost popularity in the 1980s for Salsa, it is still taught in many Latin dance schools.
Origins of Mambo
The word “Mambo” comes from the Bantu of Congo and means “conversation with the gods”. The Mambos are also voodoo priestesses in Haiti who interpret the wills of spirits called “Lwas” who serve as intermediaries between the Creator and Men.
It is from the African continent that the Mambo will also draw some of its roots, the others from indigenous instruments and settlers from Spain to Cuba.
The inventor of the first Mambo is not known precisely. For some specialists it would be Orestes Lopez who composed with Cachao a song called “Mambo” in 1937. For others it would be Ignacio Loyola Rodríguez, better known under the name of Arsenio Rodríguez or “El Ciego Maravilloso “(The Wonderful Blind) who worked on Cuban Sound in 1934 and who would have achieved his goals in 1936 with this new musical style.
Arsenio Rodríguez then decided to change the organization of his group of musicians, incorporating the piano, the congas and more trumpets. New harmonic concepts are also developed from Son and Bolero, working on a rhythmic basis originating in Congo.
Arsenio Rodríguez said that “the descendants of the Congo played a music called” Tambor de Yuka “and I based on this rhythm to create the Mambo … The first work that I composed from this style has was “Yo son kangá” and the first Mambo I recorded “So caballo”.
Evolution of the Mambo
After Orestes Lopez, Cacho Lopez and Arsenio Rodríguez, a fourth Cuban musician will play an important role in the popularization of this new musical style: Dámaso Pérez Prado nicknamed “The King of the Mambo”.
In 1942 he moved to Havana and played in different orchestras like Orquesta Cubaney, Orquesta de Paulina Álvarez and the Casino de la Playa.
In 1947, Dámaso Pérez Prado recorded “Que rico el mambo” and made an international tour in Argentina and Venezuela. The following year he met the Cuban singer Benny Moré and recorded with him in Mexico several songs, the most popular are “Mambo Nº 5” and “Mambo Nº 8”.
Dámaso Pérez Prado is going to compose another song which will also be very successful, “Patricia” which will be taken again in 1960 by Federico Fellini in his film “La Dolce Vita”.
Benny Moré will be nicknamed “The Prince of Mambo” after recording with Dámaso Pérez Prado several titles like “Babarabatiri”, “Anabacoa”, “Locas por el mambo”, “Viejo cañengo”, “El suave”, “Maria Cristina “,” Pachito “or” Dolor carabalí “.
“Mambo Nº 5” is certainly the title that has most popularized this genre of music worldwide, and the song will experience in 1999 a new success thanks to the new version of the German singer Lou Bega.
In France, it is in 1956 that the Mambo will know its glorious period with the diffusion of the film “And God … created the wife” of Roger Vadim in which we can see Brigitte Bardot dancing barefoot a Mambo in Saint-Tropez .
Like many Cuban dances such as Bolero, Cha Cha Cha or Salsa, the Mambo will arrive in Mexico and the United States with tours of Cuban singers and musicians like Dámaso Pérez Prado, Benny Moré or José Curbelo, the latter making themselves popular in Miami and Las Vegas.
Tito Puente, a Puerto Rican born in New York, is the musician who most popularizes the Mambo in the United States playing every night at the Palladium Ballroom in New York. He will then popularize Cha Cha Cha, Bossa Nova and Salsa before playing with the greatest Jazz artists like Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton and Dexter Gordon.
Another Puerto Rican from New York will also have great success in the United States following the example of the Spanish musician Xavier Cugat: Tito Rodriguez, who interprets the Mambo more sentimentally. Tito Rodríguez founded an orchestra called “Mambo Devils” and rivals those of Tito Puente and Cuban Machito.
A singer from Peru will also be very successful in the United States with the Mambo, the soprano Zoila Augusta Emperatriz Chávarri del Castillo more known under the stage name “Yma Sumac”. In 1954 she recorded “Mambo!”, A disc with 11 tracks including “Bo Mambo”, “Gopher Mambo” or “Five Bottles Mambo”.
In the 1960s, the Mambo began to be part of other musical genres such as Boogaloo, Pachanga, Timba and Salsa, the latter gradually becoming established in all the dance halls of the planet.
Dancing the Mambo
The Mambo is a mix of African, Latin American and jazz music, which is danced following a syncopated rhythm since we observe a period of silence at each rhythm to accentuate the syncope.
The Mambo is one of the fastest tropical dances and has a common feature with the Bolero since both begin at the second movement of the music. It is also, like the Bolero, a very sensual dance because of the movement of the hips of the dancers.
But over the years, some have wanted to simplify the Mambo by starting to move from the first movement of the music and today, many people dance the Mambo by taking three steps in the first three times and marking a break in the fourth.
If the dancers begin to dance the Mambo glued to each other, because of the rhythm and some difficulty of the figures they end up very quickly to let go to make these movements.
To better understand the basic pace of the Mambo, watch carefully the movements of the dancers in the video that we offer below, this will allow you to quickly learn this dance.