The word rumba is included within a number of Afroamerican words designating a kind of collective and profane party which stemmed out in Cuba at an early stage in history.
Initially, musical instruments used in these parties included boxes of different sizes, often codfish and candle boxes, to achieve the most acute sounds and bottles, frying pans or any metal tool for percussion purposes. With the development of this genre, these instruments were replaced by three tumbadoras placed at different heights, each one with a specific and particular rhythmic function. The high-pitched drum, the so-called quinto , or speaking drum, would improvise certain sounds urging the dancer to make different figurations. The high-pitched tumba marks a bass ostinato and the middle voice, the tres dos , produces a steady rhythm establishing a balance. The player "beats" against the tumba body or in another drum" with two sticks and the singer plays the harpsichord as a sort of beginning call which is maintained during the singing.
Originally, the rumba was a free and loose dance for couples within an akin group. Rumba means fiesta, beats and dancing. It is danced by a group linked by kinship or friendly bonds, neighboring links. In this rumba party some play the drums, others sing, others respond as a choir and the rest clapped their hands, move or enter into the circle to dance.
Generally, the rumba is played after a melodic-style vocal inspiration called diana . Afterwards, with the beginning of the text there is an improvisation to expose the theme or motive of the rumba, the so-called decimar . Then, after this improvisation, the rumba "breaks out" with the entrance of the instruments alternating with the soloist-choir in which the choir constantly repeats a refrain, this is the moment known as capetillo.
When the rumba starts, a dancing couple comes to the circle. The dance is a descriptive dance and, in general, it has a convulsive and non-articulated style with steps and gestures representing events that took place before the couple´s possession.
Each part of the rumba presents variants which, when combined, result in different modalities of well-defined characters, among others, the guaguancó, yambú, columbia and the Spanish-time rumbas.
At the beginning of this century famous groups include Los Roncos and El Paso Franco. Later on, prestigious rumberos were Ignacio Piñeiro, Agustín Pina, Roncona, Malanga, Tío Tom, Chano Pozo, Virulilla, etc. Today there are outstanding rumberos as Clave y Guaguancó, Yoruba Andabo, Los Muñequitos de Matanzas and Los Papines, among others.
As a folkloric fact, the rumba was modified by the vernacular theater, the cabaret and the commercial movie and television. However, rumbas danced by the people continued with their logical evolution until becoming one of the cultural manifestations of the Cuban cultural heritage.