The word Rumba is really a generic term, covering a variety of names, of which Afro-Cuban, Son, Son-Montuno, Danzon, Guajira, Mambo, Conga, Guaracha, Nanigo, are but few. Rumba is a family of percussive rhythms, song and dance that originated in Cuba as a combination of the musical traditions of Africans brought to Cuba as slaves and Spanish colonizers. The name derives from the Cuban Spanish word rumbo which means “party” or “spree”. It is secular, with no religious connections. Carlos Vidal was the first to commercially record authentic folkloric rumba (Ritmo Afro-Cubano) in 1948.
The term spread in the 1930s and 1940s to the faster popular music of Cuba (the Peanut Vendor was a classic), where it was used as a catch-all term, rather like salsa today. Also, the term is used in the international Latin-American dance syllabus, where it is a misnomer: the music used for this slower dance is the bolero-son. Ballroom rumba, or rhumba, is basically son and not based on the authentic folkloric rumba. Similarly, the African style of pop music called African Rumba or soukous is also son-based.
The term is also used today for various styles of popular music from Spain, as part of the so-called Cantes de ida y vuelta, or music that developed between both sides of the atlantic. Flamenco rumba is a genre that is entirely different from Cuban rumba. There are two sources of the dance : one Spanish, the other African ,but the main growth was in Cuba. The ‘rumba influence’ came in the 16th century with the black slaves imported from Africa. The dance was inspired by the walk of the cock and hence showed a similarity to the Chilean national Folk dance – the ‘Cueca’. In Spain, the Bolero was a very old dance, which became considerably modified in its incorporation into the Cuban dancing, it became known as the Criollabolero (criolla = creole).
The Rumba, the Son and the Bolero are all rhythmically similar but vary considerably in tempo. In Latin America and the USA the Rumba is a fast dance, the Son of medium tempo, and the Bolero slow. Basically the Rumba is the spirit and soul of Latin-American music and dance : it has completely fascinating rhythms and bodily expressions which enable the woman dancer to express her grace and femininity and the man to show her off in this way while himself feeling the spell of the music and the sheer joy of being alive. During a good choreography, we always see elements of attraction and repulsion between man and woman. The erotic and sensual movements of the lady will obtain a response of desire and masculine domination; it’s man who always win at the end.