Bachata surged in the 1960’s in the Dominican Republic as a mixture of Bolero and African Son. Originally considered a vulgar rhythm of the lower classes, it did not receive national recognition until the 1980’s, when it became a danceable rhythm after changes to the original musical instruments. Since then, bachata has become an international phenomenon and has become as popular as salsa or merengue.


Cha-cha-chá was created in the mid 20th century when the Cuban composer Enrique Jorrín started to experiment with the Danzón melodies. The experiment consisted in the isolation of three singers with a unison intonation of the composition, which allowed dancers room for improvisation and innovation in their dance figures. As such, cha-cha-chá became one of the richest and most diverse rhythms, characterized by its sensual movement. It comes as no surprise that the cha-cha-chá has rapidly spread all over the continent and has become one of the most popular ballroom dance styles today.


The origin of Cumbia is believed to be in the 17th century in the Caribbean coast of Colombia. It is a musical syncretism between the melancholy Indigenous rhythms and the joyous rhythm of the African melodies. At its start, Cumbia was solely instrumental, played with a set of drums and flutes. Since then, it has spread widely throughout Latin America, developing in each nation with a distinct variation to its original form.


Merengue surged at the beginning of the 19th century in the north of the Dominican Republic as a form of musical expression by the Cibao farmers. During those times, it was characterized by having simple verses composed of poetic phrases, accompanied by simple accordion melodies, drums and a guiro. In the 1980’s, merengue became rhythmically richer consisting of a simple musical structure. It soon became popular with Dominican youth and later surged to prominence in Argentina and Venezuela.


The rumba surged to popularity in Cuba during the Spanish colonization. Originally a traditional Afro-Cuban dance promoting fertility, it became the basis for Cuban ballroom dance in the 17th century. Since then, rumba was danced in taverns, bars and similar places. It reached peak popularity during the first decades of the 20th century. Today, the word ‘rumba’ represents a vast variety of styles. Many of these forms share a similarity in that they are characterized by erotic and sometimes vulgar movements of the pelvis.


Salsa is a mix of styles and genres with roots in Cuban mambo, cha-cha-chá, rumba, son and guaguancó. Countries such as Puerto Rico, Colombia, and Venezuela have influenced and added their own variation to the style. In doing so, it has transformed and elaborated the genre into a diverse and rhythmically heterogeneous one, though maintaining the Latin American essence and the language. Curiously, salsa was born in the Hispanic neighbourhoods of New York in the mid 1970’s, ironically enough during a turbulent period between Cuba and the United States.


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