The typical dances of the Caribbean region have their roots in the past. We call this a wide territory that includes several nations bathed by the very Caribbean Sea and also the islands that are surrounded by this part of the Atlantic Ocean. Among the first are Mexico, Colombia, Nicaragua o Panama, while regarding the latter, we can mention nations as Cuba (if you want to know more about the customs of this country, click here), Dominican Republic o Jamaica.
Therefore, the typical dances of the Caribbean region are those that are practiced in that vast territory. Currently, they are the result of the synthesis of three influences: the native, the Spanish and the African, the latter brought there by those who had slavery as their destination. In fact, many of these dances were staged at the end of the hard working days of both slaves and free workers. But, without further ado, we are going to tell you about these rhythms.
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Typical dances of the Caribbean region: a huge variety
The first thing that stands out about these dances is the large number of them that exist. For example, the so-called they are in black, originally from the island of Santa Lucia; the puja Colombian, the sextet or they are palenquero or the little drum, born in Panama. But, given the impossibility of stopping at all these dances, we are going to tell you about the most popular ones.
Salsa, the Caribbean dance par excellence
Interestingly, the most typical Caribbean dance became popular in the NY from the sixties of the last century. It was then that Puerto Rican musicians led by the Dominican Johnny pacheco made him famous.
However, its origins go back to the Caribbean countries and very specifically to Cuba. In fact, both its rhythm and its melody are based on traditional music from that country. Specifically, its rhythmic pattern comes from they are cuban and the melodic was taken from they are montuno.
Also Cuban are many of his instruments. For example, the bongo, the pailas, the güiro or the cowbell that are complemented by others such as the piano, the trumpets and the double bass. Finally, its harmony comes from European music.
Merengue, Dominican contribution
Merengue is the most popular dance in the Dominican Republic. It also came to United States last century, but its origins date back to the nineteenth and are unclear. So much so that there are several legends about it.
One of the best known says that a great native hero was wounded in the leg fighting against the Spanish. Upon returning to his village, his neighbors decided to throw him a party. And since they saw that he was limping, they chose to imitate him when dancing. The result was that they dragged their legs and moved their hips, two typical features of meringue choreography.
Whether or not it is true, it is a beautiful story. But the fact is that this dance has become one of the most popular in the world, to the point that it has been declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
Perhaps more real is the tradition that attributes its origins to the peasants of the region of The Cibao that they were going to sell their products to the cities. They were staying in lodgings and one of them was called Perico Ripao. That was where they entertained themselves by performing this dance. Hence it was called at that time and area precisely Perico Ripao.
As for his music, it is based on three instruments: the accordion, the güira and the tambora. Finally, it is also curious that the main person in charge of the improvement and development of the meringue was the dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, all a fan of this are who created schools and orchestras to promote it.
The mambo and its African origin
Among the typical dances of the Caribbean region, this was developed in Cuba. However, its origin is attributed to the African slaves who arrived on the island. In any case, the modern version of this dance is due to the Arcaño orchestra in the thirties of the last century.
Taking the Cuban danzón, sped it up and introduced a syncopation to the percussion while adding elements of the genre montuno. However, it would be the Mexican Damaso Pérez Prado who would popularize the mambo around the world. He did this by expanding the number of players in the orchestra and adding typical North American jazz elements such as trumpets, saxophones, and double bass.
Characteristic also made the peculiar counterpoint that made the body move to its beat. Already in the fifties of the twentieth century, several musicians transferred the mambo to NY making it a true international phenomenon.
Also born in Cuba, precisely its origin must be sought in a mambo effect. There were dancers who were not comfortable with the frenetic rhythm of the dance broadcast by Pérez Prado. So they looked for something calmer and that's how he was born in cha-cha with its calmer tempo and catchy melodies.
Specifically, its creation is attributed to the famous violinist and composer Enrique Jorrín, which also promoted the importance of the lyrics performed by the entire orchestra or by a solo vocalist.
According to experts, this music combines the roots of the Cuban danzón and his own Mambo, but it alters its melodic and rhythmic conception. In addition, it introduces elements of the schottische from Madrid. As for the dance itself, it is said that it was created by the group that choreographed it at the Silver Star club in Havana. His footsteps made a sound on the ground that seemed like three successive blows. And using an onomatopoeia, they baptized the genre as "Cha Cha Cha".
Cumbia, African heritage
Unlike the previous one, the cumbia is considered heir to the african dances who took to America those who were transported as slaves. However, it also has native and Spanish elements.
Although today it is danced all over the world and there is talk of Argentine, Chilean, Mexican and even Costa Rican cumbia, the origins of this dance must be sought in the territories of Colombia and Panama.
As a result of the synthesis we were talking about, the drums come from their African substrate, while other instruments such as the maracas, the pitos and the gouache they are indigenous to America. Instead, the clothing worn by the dancers derives from the ancient Spanish type of wardrobe.
But what interests us most in this article, which is dance as such, has a genuinely African roots. It presents sensuality and a typical choreography of the dances that can still be found today in the heart of Africa.
It is also a genuinely dance Dominican but extended to the whole world. It originated in the sixties of the twentieth century from the rhythmic bolero, although it also presents influences from meringue and they are cuban.
In addition, for the bachata some typical instruments of those rhythms were replaced. For example, the maracas of the bolero were replaced by the güira, also belonging to the percussion family, and were introduced guitars.
As has happened with so many other dances, bachata was considered in its beginnings as a dance of the most humble classes. Then it was known as "Bitter music", which made reference to the melancholy that was reflected in their themes. It was already in the eighties of the twentieth century when the genre spread internationally until it was classified by UNESCO as Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
On the other hand, throughout its history, bachata has split into two subgenres. The tecnoamargue was one of them. It combined the characteristics of this dance with music created from electronic instruments while merging with other genres such as jazz or rock. His best performer was Sonia Silvestre.
The second subgenre is the so-called pink bachata, which has gained much more popularity throughout the world. It is enough for us to tell you that his great figures are Víctor Víctor and especially Juan Luis Guerra so that you realize it. In this case, it is combined with the romantic ballad.
As for the genre at present, its greatest exponent is the American singer of Dominican origin Romeo Santos, first with your group, Adventure, and now solo.
Other typical dances of the less popular Caribbean region
The dances that we have told you so far are typical of the Caribbean, but they have transcended its territory to become famous all over the world. However, there are other dances that have not been as successful abroad, but are enormously popular in the Caribbean area.
This is the case leek, whose origins are in the territory of Colombia before the arrival of the Spanish. It combines influences from native pipers with African rhythms and has a clear seductive component. Currently it is a ballroom dance that has a lilting and festive rhythm. To dance it, they usually take typical colombian costumes. Also belongs to this type of dance the fandango, which has nothing to do with its Spanish namesake. Originally from the Bolivian city of Sucre, quickly spread to Colombian Urabá. It is a happy corrido in which, curiously, the women carry candles to reject the flirtation of the men.
Clearer African roots have the mapalé. In this dance, it is the drums and the caller that set the rhythm. Its origins had to do with work, but today it has an undeniable festive tone. It is an energetic and vibrant dance, full of exoticism.
Finally, we will tell you about bullerengue. Like other typical dances of the Caribbean region, it includes dance, song and melodic interpretation. The latter is carried out only with drums and with the palms of the hands. For its part, the song is always performed by women and the dance can be performed by both couples and groups.
In conclusion, we have told you about some of the most popular dances in the Caribbean. The first ones we mentioned to you have achieved international fame and popularity. For their part, the latter are equally well known in the territory where they are performed, but less so in the rest of the world. In any case, there are many others typical dances of the Caribbean region. Among them, we will mention in passing the farotas, scribble, brought to America by the Spanish, or the I'll be I know-I know.