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If in the last century Cuban music has been known primarily for the mambo, the chachacha and the son that generated salsa, in the nineteenth century by far the most predominant and distinctively national music was the contradanza, in the diverse forms it took over the course of its extended heyday. The contradanza (or "danza," as it was later called) was also the era's most seminal genre, parenting the habanera that graced European opera and music theater, the elegant figures of the tumba francesa's mason dance, and, albeit ultimately, the mambo and the chachacha themselves, which evolved from the danza's direct descendant, the danzon. Even some of the figures of modern salsa dancing derive from the contradanza, as do musical features of early-twentieth-century genres such as the criolla, clave, and theater gauijira. Finally, while the roots of the Cuban son itself have customarily been ascribed to rural folk music of eastern Cuba, considerable evidence suggests that they are better sought in 1850s urban contradanzas of Havana and Santiago, thus calling for a revision of standard Cuban music historiography. Indeed, it is in some respects easier to enumerate those Cuban genres-- such as Santeria music or neo-Hispanic punto-- which were not generated by or directly related to the contradanza.


This work was originally published in "Creolizing Contradance in the Caribbean," edited by Peter Manuel.



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