Cumbia is a genre of music that originated on Colombia’s Caribbean coast as a ritual courtship dance of African slaves. At first only drums and claves accompanied the dance, but as Spanish colonial influence seeped into the music, guitars began to appear. Says Wikipedia, “According to legend, the accordion was added after a German cargo ship carrying the instruments sank as a load of accordions washed ashore on the northwest coast of Colombia.” Whether or not this is true, it’s a great story. Other instruments are:
— tambora, a large two-headed drum that the drummer plays with sticks,
— maracas and cajon (at 3:30–more about the cajon below), and sometimes
— the congas, a Cuban hand drum with African ancestry.
Today the genre has spread beyond Colombia popular all over Latin America, especially in Mexico. “Andean Cumbia” blends the indigenous music of Andean nations such Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru with the rhythmic beat. In Peru it has even developed into a distinct subgenre known as Chicha.
PLEASE NOTE: The lesson and embedded video are NOT “How to dance the Cumbia” tutorials. The goal of this lesson is to provide the tools for you to treat your very youngest students to their first introduction to cumbia and to inspire you to get up and dance together. (Your dance moves can’t be any worse than mine!) Ideally the lesson will be the first step on your and your students’ road to further cumbia exploration.