Cumbia

Mariana Conners

The Rhythm of Columbia

This popular Latin dance, known as Cumbia, began in Columbia. The music associated with it, which is often referred to as the mother of Latin music, originated specifically in the Colombian town of San Basilio. This music type can be described as a mix between that of Salsa and Samba. Cumbia has always been a common celebratory dance throughout all of Central America and is now becoming more known in North America.

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The Basics: Moves and Music

Cumbia can basically be broken down into what is called a "back-break basic" step. This is much like a "wind-up" movement of the arms and a circular motion of the feet. Most people relate the movements to that of Swing dancing, which explains why Cumbia is called El Swing in Costa Rica. The music, said to have come about in the early 1880's, was once the combination of flutes, maracas, and African drums. Now the music has developed a style of its own, incorporating guitars, claves, accordions, and electronic instruments.

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Did You Know...?

  • In North America, dancers typically dance Salsa to Cumbia music, while in Latin America, dancers usually dance Cumbia to Salsa music (both unknowingly).

  • The oldest known existence of Cumbia in Panama dates back to the early 19th century, where slaves danced Cumbia as courtship in the living room of Don Vallarina Obarrio.

  • The mid-20th century later became known as the "Golden Age of Cumbia" due to its surge of popularity in Latin America.
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