Cuban music has its origins in Spanish and African influences that have been part of Cuba’s population and culture. Modern Cuban music is the creolization or mixture of these different influences. In the past, Indian music also played a role in the development of Cuban music, but this influence is now non-existent. Other countries have played a role in developing this music, including France, the United States, Puerto Rico and China.
African music styles have influenced the development of Cuban music. Cuba was a major slave gate during the 18th and 20th centuries. It is not known exactly how many slaves passed through Cuba, but there is no doubt that the island has a history and culture that originates from the African continent. Various African clans, such as Congolese and Yoruba, were brought to Cuba, and each clan played a role in developing the religious syncretism that also contributes to the development of Cuban music.
Cuban music developed in social environments. Spanish dances were often held in public, and cabildos, social groups organized by various African clans to preserve their African traditions, also performed religious ceremonies in general. Musical styles, such as Spanish cantos and flamenco, as well as the use of polyrhythmic percussion and call-and-response in African religious ceremonies, helped create a hybrid of musical styles that shaped Cuban music.
The drum played a huge role in the historical development of Cuban music. Unable to import their own drums from Africa, slaves made drums using materials available on the island. Today, the most common types of drums are bongos, congas, bata drums, cajons (previously used when drums had been banned) and chlorine. Although Spanish looked at the use of drums due to their prevalence among enslaved Africans, the drum eventually changed the sound of Spanish music. Other instruments, such as the Spanish guitar and the Chinese cornet, have also shaped the style of Cuban music.
Over the years, Cuban music has influenced other forms of music, such as jazz and salsa. One of the more famous bands playing Cuban music is the Buena Vista Social Club, whose popularity spread around the world due to the 1997 documentary of the same name. Cuban music, or Afro-Cuban music, has played a huge role in influencing world music. Almost every musical style around the world has been influenced by Cuban music. Still, Cuban music is a synthesis of many different styles of world music, merging to create distinct rhythms and melodies. The development of Cuban music is complex, with world movements such as slavery in the Western world and communism. But each of these different movements is important for understanding certain facts about Cuban music and how it has come to affect music in general.