Sounding like a cross between tango and military/funeral marching band is the music and dance of Danzón. Developed in the mid to late 1800’s from European settlers in Cuba, Danzón would separate itself from the more afro-Cuban traditions of rumba and son – while establishing itself as an export most notably in Mexico. From its early beginnings, Danzón would be seen as something scandalous (like most Latin American music), only later to evolve into a more sedate and dignified form of music and dance. As it’s popularity began to wane in the 1920’s (due to the rising popularity of the chachacha and rumba) Danzón and their musicians would find open arms in such places like Veracruz, Oaxaca and Mexico City.
Mexico has long welcomed musicians and artists from all over Latin America and they really had taken the music of Danzón to heart. Probably one of the most notable Cuban exports would be Arecina Consejo Valiente Robles. It would only make sense to end up in Mexico, since the dance survived longer there than in Cuba. The two songs in the post are in fact traditional Mexican Danzónes, not Cuban – one song being a homage to Benito Juarez and the other being the popular Nereidas (nymphs) written by Amador Pérez Dimas, who was a popular composer from Oaxaca, Mexico.
Although there is some afro-cuban elements in Danzón, you’d be surprised how ridged the musical form is. There is no singing and the music never features improvisation like rumba and son did. Without delving too deep into the structure, listen to the songs – you’ll hear that there is a change in tempo and tone that defines the style and form structure. Just remember, the melody tends to heat up at the end. Enjoy!