I was scrolling through TikTok, and found this flamenco guitar video titled: Rumba Jam.


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♬ original sound - martymusician

My first thought was: “Cool, I love hearing new Rumba Music I can Ballroom dance to!” As the music played, it was very clear to me as a dancer this was not a tune I could dance Rumba to. So I was disappointed.

I quickly googled “Rumba Jam” expecting to find this was an original song written by this guitarist. What I found was another tune of the same name by a different group:

So, at this point the Ballroom Dancer in me is upset that I don’t have a new rumba to dance. However, the musician in me is excited to hear the Bossa Nova beat structure applied to complex melodies. Then, the grammar nerd in me wanted to know where the term “Rumba” comes from.

According to this brief Smithsonian magazine article, Rumba as a dance originated in the 19th century Cuba. It was born out of slavery and is meant to be a lively music and dance form. Rumba literally means “Party” in spanish (root verb rumbear, which means going to parties, dancing and having a good time).

Here is the wiki article with additional reading on Rumba the dance style. Below are embeds for some samples on YouTube that theoretically represent the different styles of Cuban Rumba. However, to my Ballroom Dancer eyes, I’m having a hard time distinguishing among them. I do recognize several “dance primitives” that appear in a lot of dancing in general. (rock step, alternating knees, foot positions, rhythm patterns, etc.)

Rumba Columbia

Rumba Guaguancó

Rumba Yambú