Published On: Sun, Jul 19th, 2009

Today is the Colombian Day Festival…a bailar Cumbia pues….

Colombia YES it is COLOMBIAN DAY IN NYC!!!!…although I will not be attending the festival in Flushing Meadow Park this year, you may very well see me tonight at Jones Beach with Magic Juan and N'Klabe. I will  hanging out with the Swiggity cartel, my people from La Kalle / Univision Radio and my brothers of Phi Iota Alpha. Before I go…I must have a Bandeja Paisa and some Arepas…to get in the mood….any ideas on where I should eat today? Hit me up at or on twitter @UrbanJibaro.

So brush up on your Cumbia skills…y nos vemos en field 4.

As I am,
George Torres
The Urban Jibaro

via Wikipedia

Cumbia is a Colombian musical style and folk dance that is considered to be representative of Colombia, along with Vallenato. Cumbia originated from the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Cumbia began as acourtship dance practiced among the slave population that was later mixed with European instruments and musical characteristics. It was also used during the Colombian struggle for independence as an expression of resistance against Spain.



Cumbia is a variant of Guinean cumbé music. Cumbia started in the carribean coast of what is now Colombia and Panama, mainly in or around Cartagena during the period of Spanish colonization. Spain used its ports to import African slaves, who tried to preserve their musical traditions and also turned the drumming and dances into a courtship ritual. Cumbia was mainly performed with just drums and claves.

The slaves were later influenced by the sounds of Amerindian instruments from the Kogui and Kunatribes, who lived between the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the Montes de María in Colombia and Kuna Yala in Panamá. Millo flutes, Gaita flutes, and güiros were instruments borrowed from these Native American tribes. The interaction between Africans and Amerindians under the Spanishcaste system created a mixture from which the gaitero (cumbia interpreter) appeared, with a defined identity by the 1800s. (These gaiteros are not the same as the Venezuelan Zuliangaiteros.) The European guitars and accordions were added later through Spanish influence.


Cumbia as a courtship ritual

The slave courtship ritual, which featured dance prominently, was traditionally performed with music played by pairs of men and women and with male and female dancers. Women playfully wave their long skirts while holding a candle, and men dance behind the women with one hand behind their back and the other hand either holding a hat, putting it on, or taking it off. Male dancers also carried a red handkerchief which they either wrapped around their necks, waved in circles in the air, or held out for the women to hold. Until the mid-20th century, cumbia was considered to be an inappropriate dance performed primarily by the lower social classes.



The basic rhythm structure is 4/4. Due to its origins, both African and Amerindian influences can be felt in cumbia.


Musical instruments

Traditional instruments used in cumbia:

  • Drums: Cumbia drums were of African origin and were brought along with slaves to the Americas by the Spanish conquerors. Africans used wood, ropes made out of sisal (Agave sisalana), and dried animal skins to make their drums. The drums were played either with hands or with sticks. The ends of the sticks were sometimes wrapped with dry skin to prevent wearing of the drums. Cumbia interpreters produce variations of the sound emitted by the drum by hitting it on almost every area of the wooden base and dry skin. Today, modern deep-toneddrums are used in cumbia as well.
  • Claves: These percussion instruments are a pair of hard thick sticks and usually set the beat throughout the song.
  • Instruments of European origin used in cumbia today include the guitar, the mejoranera and the violin (in Panama), the accordion, the bass guitar, and the modern flute.

Today is the Colombian Day Festival…a bailar Cumbia pues….