Song Of The Day 4/6/2016: Clave y Guaguancó – “Nosotros Tenemos Por Norma”

Cuba: We Cool? – Surely you've heard of the rumba. Although you'd be correct in using the term to describe the music or the dance, its most pertinent meaning is applied to the actual gathering, where singers and dancers moistened by rivers of rum try to out-duel each other in a circle. In the early 20th century it was the pastime for the poor, although a little of it spread into theatre and more refined music venues. But as this extremely helpful website somewhat starkly says, until its latter-century heyday it was "a despised music of a despised people." With sociologists like these, who needs toxicologists? Amirite?

There are three forms of the rumba you can safely concern yourself with: the columbia for solo dancers, the African-derived yambú for more relaxed and seasoned couples, and the  guaguancó for, well, the lustful, hormonal horndogs. Take a wild guess which one's most popular. Actually the guaguancó is what most first-worlders simply refer to as the rumba, although in a much more orchestrated version than today's selection from Clave y Guaguancó. The form relies heavily on the rhythm played on the claves, the simple wooden, cylindrical sticks that are the most distinctively Cuban percussive instrument. A bunch of other auxiliary rhythm instruments, like congas and maracas, get in on the action as well.

Lameca, the helpful website referred to above, gives a description of the traditional guaguancó dance ritual, which I really can't top myself:
The guaguancó is a couple dance, but it’s a fast, energetic dance for a young, virile couple. Overtly sexual, it’s centered around the movement known as the vacunao, a game of pursuit-and-capture of the female by the male. In a crouch, the couple dances at each other a few feet apart, until without warning the male makes a sudden symbolic gesture of possession at the woman's genitals. It could be a kick, an aggressive gesture with his hand, a pelvic thrust, a movement of his handkerchief; but the female dancer is watching for this, and covers her sex (in a movement sometimes called botao) as quickly – and in as stylized a manner -- as the male can thrust. This is a style, and a scenario, of African dance that has likely been in Cuba from the early days of Kongos arriving in the New World, censured by priests and danced by nuns in various territories under various names. Quite possibly this included the chica, described by M.-L.-E Moreau de St.-Méry in 1796, writing of a disappeared Saint-Domingue: “To speed up the movement of the Chica, a male dancer will approach his female partner, throwing himself forward, almost touching her, withdrawing, then advancing again, while seeming to implore her to yield to the desires which invade them.”
Or as we call it at my house, "Thursday." Hey-yo! Up top!

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