Rumba is so much more than just music and dance. It expresses the identity of the island itself by blending Congolese percussion and Andalucian flamenco to create an enduring and unique sound. During 400 years of Spanish rule, African cultural practices were banned so people danced in secret, or surreptitiously mixed their traditions with Spanish ones, playing the caja (box) of flamenco, instead of tambors and congas.
For 400 years of Spanish rule, African cultural practices were banned, and that included dance. So they danced in secret, or mixed their traditions with the Spanish ones, playing the caja (boxes) of flamenco, instead of tambors and congas, and worshipped their Gods dressed and named as Spanish saints. Even in the 1900s rumba was still being persecuted, its movements considered too sensual, unCatholic. African cultural traditions really only flourished from the 1980s and 1990s onwards, partly because the Revolution was anti-religion, and these were considered religious dances. Now it is flourishing but some argue that it has become too touristy and commercialized. On a private city rooftop in total seclusionwatch two of Havana's best dancers as they unfurl a stunning rumba. One of the dances acts of the relationship between the orishas Eleggua and Oshun. Eleggua is often shown as a playful boy child, dressed in red and black. Oshun is a goddess of love and sensuality, who spreads sunshine and honey. Then sit down with the dancers and let them explain first hand how the dance fits into their lives, the nuances that it expresses and how four hundred years of slave culture, fused with Spanish colonialism, creates a vibrant and multi-faceted culture of its own.
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