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Culture of Cuba

Latino and African influences reign supreme in Cuban culture. The dances of Cuba include the hip-swinging sweet-stepping rumba, the mambo, salsa and the cha-cha-cha. The classic Cuban dances are the Danzon, Son and Reuda, the latter a street group dance. Dance on!

Cuban music is perhaps best captured by the los superabuelos - the super grandfathers. Theirs is the music of the 1940s-50s Havana, and their style is slow and smooth. Immortalised in the Ray Cooder - Wim Wenders documentary called The Buena Vista Social Club and the best selling album that it was inspired by, Cuban music is back to grip the world. The granddaddies of Cuban music Compay Segundo, Ibrahim Ferrer, Eliades Ochoa, their friends and Omara Portuondo, the only woman in this illustrious club, brought together the strains of the guitar (and tres), bass, percussion, trumpet, piano and lilting vocals that accompany rather than dominate the instruments.

The album, when it was released, unleashed a wave of nostalgia for the days of Cuba before Castro among migrants all over the world. There’s something in that that tells a story about Cubans today. Inside the country and outside there are scores of Cubans who yearn for a time when the rum and the rumba were not rationed. The music of the son, salsa, rumba and the bolero are all daily fare in Cuban homes. Music and dance are an integral part of Cuban life, as important as communes and the little libreta ration card.

The crafts of Cuba represent both the African and Spanish influences on its culture. Wooden carved figurines, masks, fine ceramics and the finest cigars are produced in this island nation. Seashells are used in such articles as knives, utensils and jewellery. Rum distilled to perfection, the smoothest tobacco rolled into world famous habanos, some of the richest coffee produced anywhere in the world…it’s all Cuban.

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