Instrumental music existed from the very beginning of the Cuban nationality, not merely as the performance of European works by Cuban musicians, but of themes that had already typical elements of an autoctonous, national music. The Creole contredanses and dances -- instrumental pieces -- composed during the first half of the 19th century are the best example of it, also evident in Manuel Samuell´s compositions.
Our danzón , a deep-rooted Cuban genre performed from the end of that same century until the first half of the XX century, is eminently instrumental, like the mambo , created in the 40´s and internationally famous in the following decades. Both were Cuban popular and dancing rhythms, conceived to be performed by a given orchestral format in a protagonistic role.
The broad 'instrumental music' concept embraces, firstly, the music composed and written for musical instruments without vocal sounds, and secondly, the large number of instrumental versions made from pieces originally conceived to be sung.
Likewise, this concept includes the symphonic, camara, piano, etc works composed by many musicians. In this regard, it is worthwhile mentioning the names of 3 Cuban musicians and their invaluable work: Ignacio Cervantes (1847-1905), Alejandro García Caturla (1906-1940) and Amadeo Roldán (1900-1939). Among Cervantes´ many compositions, his famous ' dances for piano' should be highlighted, since they are still played with a lot of success. As for Caturla and Roldán, the Cuban popular music imprint is present in their work, combining national rhythmic and sound elements with the classic format of universal music.
When speaking about instrumental music in Cuba we must mention the most used instrumental formats, some of which were even created -- or recreated -- by our musicians to perform a variety of different popular genres.
After the performance of contredanses, dances and danzones by the so-called typical orchestras or wind-orchestras in the 19th century, other instrumental groups emerged. The French charangas , which since the beginning of the 20th century coexisted and finally substituted the typical ones in the performance of the danzón , could be considered as the creators and best promoters of the cha cha chá . The sextets and the septets inaugurated the 20´s shaping and disseminating the urban son , while the bolero and the son reached their climax in the 40´s played by both ensembles and orchestras. Rural music groupings, with their predominant sonority of pressed strings, are still felt everywhere in Cuba´s country fields and the rumba groups, with the sound of drums and other percussion instruments, turn this and other manifestations into a colorful and rhytmic experience with an evident African origin.
The jazz band orchestra that came to Cuba from the United States constitutes another important instrumental group that frequently interpreted the most diverse genres of Cuban popular music. This orchestra assumed a Cuban style by incorporating our rhythms and percussion instruments in their performances and was the one who 'launched' the mambo .
There are countless instrumental combinations, some smaller, other pretty large such as the symphonic orchestra, mainly used to interpret pieces of Cuban instrumental music.
During the past century, musicians like Ernesto Lecuona, Harold Gramatges, José Ardévol, Argeliers León and others, composed a great number of Cuban instrumental music, either as symphonic or camera works, or even others, that constitute part of our musical heritage for its quality and relevance.Since the 60´s up to now, new generations of composers have been writing instrumental pieces, namely Leo Brouwer, Frank Fernández, "Chucho" Valdés, Lucía Huergo and Sergio and José Mª. Vitier brothers.