Afro-Cuban dance is one of many dance forms originating in Latin countries. This style of dance has also found its way into American culture. Cuban music has its roots in Cuban history. When the Spanish settled Cuba, a combination of disease and abuse largely wiped out the native peoples. African slaves brought in to work on sugar plantations soon outnumbered Europeans. Although Cuba’s African population was oppressed, people managed to preserve many rituals and customs, and the rhythms and instrumentation of African music were eventually absorbed into the existing Spanish musical culture.
The music characteristic of Cuban culture is called son, which translates as “sound.” As the first Afro-Cuban music, it provides the foundation for modern salsa music. Son gets its complex rhythm and drumming from Africa and its guitar instrumentation and poetic style from Spain.
Understanding and learning the clave rhythm pattern is essential to learning Afro-Cuban dance. Clave means “key,” and this characteristic pattern unites Afro-Cuban dance and music. Clave rhythm consists of two measures, one with three beats and one with two beats. The word clave also refers to a Cuban percussion instrument consisting of two round polished sticks that are stuck together.