Celtic music in Havana… not for the first time

Havana was the busiest port in the Americas at many points in the 1700’s and 1800’s.

The docks were completely jammed with slaves from Africa, and soldiers and seamen from everywhere.

In the day, it was the noisy bustle of cargo offload, onload, warehousing, ships coming in, ships leaving … and serious money changing hands.

At night… womanizing, gambling, robbery, rum, and rumba. In the air, a rich melange of culture and music from everywhere.

The rumba, the special, uniquely Cuban music and dance, originated there in the dockyards of Havana and Matanzas.

Above it all, the aristocrats looking down their noses at the rough life of the slaves and lower classes… many of whose lives were less secure than the slaves who at least had a cargo value.

Many of the seamen were from the British Isles lower classes pressed into service against their wills, or deluded by promises of wealth and adventure… not only England but Celts from Ireland, Wales, and Scotland.

And, some music like this was certainly heard in the lower port streets of Cuba and Matanzas through the night along with music from everywhere.

Scholars haven’t proposed an origin for the clave rhythm of Cuba. It’s difficult partly because the lower classes were deemed unworthy of serious consideration at the time. But, it’s easy to suppose that the rhythm of the hornpipe had it’s share of influence on the first rumberos … and the rhythm of the clave, as sometimes it was played with the syncopation common with the Cuban clave.

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