Throughout history, many forms of music have been called The Devils Music. In the 1950s many people burned rock and roll records (not a smart thing to do considering the poisonous fumes that are released by burning plastic). Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry all went up in flames. Of course that didnt hurt their careers any, as the kids of that time just bought more records. The Mambo, however, has been called The Devils Dance (Diabolo), and the more extreme forms can be exhausting to perform.
The Mambo arose from a blend of African rhythms and Cuban music. West African slaves from the Congo and Yoruba were transported to the Caribbean. Bringing their two hundred gods with them, the people would call out to them in music, song and dance. Mambo is translated as “conversation with the gods” and in Haiti, Mambo is a voodoo priestess who protects the village, drives away demons, heals and provides wisdom and guidance.
The Mambo drum rhythms were incorporated into the Cuban Congos music. Mixed with a number of other styles of foreign music, the new blend was then combined with Western Jazz in the Havana casinos where Latin orchestras blared hot Cuban music. Havana was the place to be in the 1950s if you were an American with the money for travel. Celebrities or all kinds joined the Times Square and East Coast tourists who flocked to Cuba to get away from it all. As more and more Americans were exposed to the Latin beats and Cuban music, more Cuban orchestras and dancers found opportunities in America. Along with Cuban cigars, dances like the Mambo made their way to the United States to the delight of the mainlanders. The Mambo blend of American Jazz, African beat and Cuban Rumba rhythm caught on like wildfire. Although the early version presented in America was rather docile compared to its origins, the Mambo is a dance that can be quite sensual and erotic in its performance. You can take it as far as you want to go. Because of the African influence, the dance is guided by the off beat, unlike traditional Western dances which follow the downbeat. This different movement structure was new to Americans who found the novelty both intriguing and compelling. The Mambo can be danced as a Single Mambo, Double Mambo or Triple Mambo, depending upon the basic steps. It was the Triple Mambo with its five steps per measure that later diverged into the Cha Cha.
The Salsa also derived from the Mambo. The story goes that as bands were playing, people would call out, Salsa! Salsa! or Spice it up! As a result, the Salsa is a Mambo on steroids. It is faster with a more dramatic flair.
Mambo came into its own as a specific musical genre in the 1950s thanks to Perez Prado, who brought the Mambo to New York, but toned it down to accommodate the Manhattan audience. Even in its milder form, however, the Mambo caught on and continues to this day. Both Perry Como and Nat King Cole agree, Poppa loves Mambo! Mamma loves Mambo!
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