Yambu (5 Videos)

If rumba is the music where Cuban people tell their collective stories, express their hopes, and comment on the days events, then “yambu” could be considered the most primary musical form of Afro-Cuban culture, since it is the oldest form of rumba. It is one of the first forms of “creole” music in Cuba, as it is the blending of Spanish and African cultures that created this world-renowned style. In performance, it is traditionally played on “cajones” (boxes), along with some kind of a rattle (a maraca, or a small chekere), and a piece of bamboo struck with sticks, known as the “gua-gua”. In the colonial era, drums were frequently outlawed by the Spaniards, or there simply was not access to instruments and/or the tools with which to make them, so the cajon originated in Cuba in the 19th century as a replacement for the drum (It was not until much later that the Peruvian cajon was developed, which in turn was followed by the flamenco cajon played today throughout Spain). The Cuban cajon has become an art form unto itself, and there are percussionists in Cuba whose main instrument is exclusively the cajon. The original boxes for playing yambu came from the ships in the docks, where the larger ones that contained codfish were used for the lower pitches, and the smaller ones that candles were shipped in for church services were used for the higher pitch or quinto sounds.                                                                                                                     

Yambu is a slow and elegant style of rumba, where the tempos are not fast, and the dance is done by a couple with very graceful movements. In fact, during the estribillo or montuno section (the call and response section), the lead singer may remind the dancers “Yambu no se vacuna!”, as the pelvic movements that make up the dance of the guaguanco are not “allowed” in yambu. Rather the form represents a stylish and refined dance, and as such could be considered a dance for elders, who can bring all the subtlety and sophistication required to the movement.