The Cuban Music Project is dedicated to the preservation and dissemination of Cuban music and dance. Upholding the Cuban tradition of oral history, we aspire to document the rich cultural heritage of living Cuban artists and share their invaluable knowledge with generations to come.
The Cuban Music Project ....
...Keeping the Past Present.
The Cuban Music Project aspires to communicate and educate people about the history of Cuban music. It explores the evolution of Cuban Music from its African based rhythms through to the worldwide popularity that Cuban Salsa music has experienced today.
The Cuban music information presented here is based on both empirical learning and research. Much of the historical information comes from Roberto Borrell’s personal experience as a musician and dancer in Havana, Cuba. In Roberto’s time, men and women told stories and sang songs as a way to preserve their Cuban culture and traditional Cuban dances. Most musicians and dancers did not receive their Cuban music education in schools until after 1960 but rather from their families, their fellow slaves and co-workers on the plantations and the docks, and in their neighborhood Solars.
Although there are a wide variety of Cuban musical genres, most can be traced back to African, Spanish and French sources. The African diaspora, with it’s folkloric music and dance, arrived in Cuba around 500 years ago when slaves were first brought from Africa. In Afro Cuban music history the importance of African rhythm cannot be underestimated. Traditional Cuban dance and music and its history were kept alive in Cuban culture through religion and the forming of cabildos. Outside of the religion and secret societies, the music and dance were displayed in front of the public in the form of Carnaval and later at social gatherings called Rumbas. In Havana the Afro Cuban rhythms evolved into Conga for Carnaval and into Gugaunacó for Rumba.
In the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s, Afro Cuban music history took a turn and crossed paths with dance music developed in England and France, and the Son from Eastern Cuba with it’s Spanish and French influence. These genres became known as Cuban Popular Music and Dance. They include Contradanza, Danza, Danzón, Son, Guaracha, Son Montuno, Cha Cha Cha, Songo, Cuban Salsa, Timba and Cubatón. Contrary to popular belief Salsa music developed in New York City as a blend of exported Cuban derived music, in particular Guaracha. Later, in the last 20 years, Cuban culture has adopted the phrases Salsa music and Cuban Salsa as a way to communicate with the rest of the world.
The Cuban Music Project is in production on a documentary film that explores the history of Cuban music through the eyes of Roberto Borrell. Roberto received his Cuban music education by overhearing the juke box in a bar across the street from where he lived in the neighborhood of Jesus Maria in Havana, Cuba. Jesus Maria can be compared to the Treme in New Orleans; a neighborhood rich in the history of Cuban music and in itself holds a wealth of Cuban music information.
As a young man, Roberto Borrell, was a member of the Conjunto Folklórico Nacional de Cuba, the most prestigious performance group at that time for traditional Cuban dance and music. His first area of expertise with the Conjunto was through his skill as a Popular Dancer. This genre of social dance, Cuban Popular Dance, precedes Cuban Salsa music and was extremely popular through out the world from the 1920s through to the 1960s. As Roberto developed as an artist he became a well-known percussionist among religious circles and with Popular Music groups. In 1973, in Havana, Cuba he created his own performance group, Kubata. Through a variety of dance and musical numbers, including Yoruba, Congo, Arará, Rumba, Conga, Danzón, Son, Son Montuno, Guaracha and Cha Cha Cha; Kubata kept traditional Cuban dance and music alive. In this way Cuban music information was handed down to the newer generations.
The Cuban documentary film, “La Llave, La Clave”, is being shot is Cuba and the United States. It interviews some of the few remaining artists from Roberto’s generation and their relatives. The film, through oral tradition, will document the history of Cuban music. At the moment there are performances and interviews by Jesus Chappottín, Amado Dedeus Hernandez, Miguel Cuni jr., Lázaro Rizo, Los 6 del Solar, the original Kubata dancers and Orquesta Moderna Tradición.
Through his own experience playing percussion Roberto Borrell traces the key to many Afro Cuban music rhythms back to the people who came from Calabar, Africa. The documentary film explores Roberto’s own theory on the origin of the Clave, the backbone of Cuban music.
The Cuban Music Project offers a series of workshops and classes in Cuban music education in the San Francisco Bay Area and internationally on Skype. Classes in folkloric music and dance, percussion, Popular Music and Dance and Roberto’s personal experience of Afro Cuban music history are offered on a regular bases. Recently we have produced workshops on “Finding the Clave”, “Rumba, what are those musicians playing?” “Son, Song and Puya, the Lyrics in Cuban Music” and most recently “Crazy for Conga!”
The Cuban Music Project also offers a Lecture/Demonstration “Dancing Through Time” with Grace Torres and Roberto Borrell performing and lecturing on the history of Cuban music and Cuban culture.