Cuba: Feel the Beat of Bolero

February 14, 2013
Blog Image

While traveling to Cuba during IE’s people-to-people journey, music will be an ever-present companion. If you hear melodic guitar, a romantic tune and a beat that makes you want to sway your hips, there's a good chance that you're listening to bolero music, a genre of song and dance that originated in Cuba.

Cuban bolero is not to be mixed up with Spanish bolero, despite the fact that they share the same name. They are entirely different genres of music, though it's true that most music in Cuba has both Spanish and African influences, thanks to its diverse and unique populations.

There are a few aspects of bolero that make it stand out from the Spanish music of the same name. For one, it is slower, and typically has guitar accompaniment. The lyrics are different as well - most bolero songs are slow ballads about love and heartbreak, and of course, sensuality.

Jose “Pepe” Sanchez is widely regarded as the father of Cuban bolero. As a writer and composer, he created many signature songs of the genre, but surprisingly, he never wrote any of them down. Fortunately, he had friends and admirers who recorded the music on paper, and his tunes are still a staple of bolero. The musical style evolved over time, and eventually, in the 1940s, "conjuncts" bolero, or ensemble bolero, became popular. These tunes consist of larger, big band type renditions, featuring bongo and conga drums, pianos and maraca-wielding singers.

The bolero dance, like the rumba, is romantic, sentimental and sexy. In fact, some say that it's even more erotic than the classic tango, as its purpose is to show the love between the two partners who perform the dance.