The Roots of "Mambo"

Discussion in 'Salsa Music' started by Richie Blondet, Oct 2, 2013.

  1. Richie Blondet

    Richie Blondet Shine Officer

    I thought we could get a discussion going about the various interpretation of what people define as "Mambo." Is it a dance? Is it a rhythm? Is it a musical genre? It is a specific section within a song structure?

    Who invented Mambo? Was it Arsenio Rodriguez? Was it Israel Lopez "Cachao?" Was it Damaso Perez Prado?

    When did it all begin? Where did it all begin? Cuba? Mexico? New York?

    All of these questions are for you to decide on your own.

    Here is something that I found awhile back that describes a scenario that somewhat corroborates what Afro-Cuban Musicians now in their 80s and 90s and who reside in NYC have responded with when asked about the "Mambo" scene in Cuba during the early 1940s. There's this notion that "Mambo" as we know it today [The Big 3, The Palladium, Big Band Orchestras, Cuban Pete & Millie, Perez Prado Orchestra, etc.] was significantly taking place in Cuba and what took place in Mexico, New York and Puerto Rico was emulating that Cuban experience. Some of those in the know who were residing there and working in cabarets, hotels, clubs, etc. all express one commonality. The Big Band Mambo phenomenon and popularization of a dance associated with it took place outside of Cuba. Locations such as Mexico, New York, Puerto Rico.

    I recently posted this on my facebook page and I repost it here for your perusal. If anyone wants to add anything to the topic, this is the thread to do so.

    "The popularity of "Mambo" was first embraced, supported and developed in the exterior. As one legendary figure once told me about both the music and dance: "Mambo... was a N.Y. Thing." Obviously, from a musical or popular standpoint, it was also a 'Mexican thing' as Perez Prado first achieved international success with it before anyone else did while he resided in the republic of Mexico.

    While I am not betting all the marbles on this one sole article, it presents an interesting angle that has been conveyed by more than several people, but continuously contradicted by folks who are more enthusiasts than collectors or real researchers. And with no hard data to support their opinions other than nationalistic fervor.

    In any event, I thought this was an interesting description from someone who had experienced the musical culture first hand in Cuba and what the public response was like from their perspective of what would later be embraced internationally as "Mambo."

    *Article written by Sigman Byrd. September 28, 1953 for the Houston Press Daily."

    MAMBO_CEC and Smejmoon like this.
  2. timberamayor

    timberamayor Maestro 'Guaguanco' Rodríguez

    to be honest I have never much liked mambo...although as I understand it the mambo I think of is just one variant of mambo and there are others that I would not necessarily recognize as mambo because they don't irritate me like the Perez Prado stuff from Mexico does. Not a helpful contribution to the thread however :)
  3. DJ Yuca

    DJ Yuca El Sabroso de Conguero

    A lot of mamberos dislike Pérez Prado too.

    Mexicans love him, for some reason. Even today I have seen young Mexicans playing his stuff at a house party and freaking out to it. (Why someone would choose him over the likes of Machito is beyond me.)

    As for the origins of mambo . . . firstly it's a genre of music, a style of dance, and the name of an era in NYorican music. The music and dance both certainly originated in Cuba, but whether the developments and variations to either were created there too is doubtful.

    Others may well be able to shed more light on the subject; I'm certainly not an expert.
    terence likes this.
  4. bailar y tocar

    bailar y tocar Clave Commander

    In Ned Sublette's book "Cuba and its Music" there is Chapter 31 Nagüe, Nagüe, Nagüe which is an account of Mario Bauza and Machito's start in NYC in the 1930's. There are 45 references cited in the bibliography. The music of that era is so close to what would be called mambo.

    As I am re-reading the chapter, all I can say is that the era was truly fascinating as to what was happening in NY, in Mexico, in Puerto Rico and in Cuba but NY is definitely in the center of the development.
    MAMBO_CEC likes this.
  5. Richie Blondet

    Richie Blondet Shine Officer

    That's the conflict that arises because the impression is that there was a dance recognized as "Mambo" in Cuba prior to the U.S., Mexico and Puerto Rico, etc. based Mambo craze.

    Everyone has something to offer. Be it a question or an observation. There's no experts here on the subject. Otherwise, there'd be no need to start a topic over it. We can all learn about something we personally dig.
  6. groovetpt

    groovetpt Capitán Del Estilo

    When I hear the word mambo I immediately think of the Palladium and the Big Three, especially Tito Rodriguez, my favorite. I also love the sound of Graciela's coros in Machitos band. When I think of mambo I think of the big fat big band sound from full brass and reed sections ( 4 trumpets, 4 trombones and 5 saxes ) -- I *love* the saxophone guajeros in Mambo.
    Richie Blondet, MAMBO_CEC and terence like this.
  7. groovetpt

    groovetpt Capitán Del Estilo

    oops... I meant guajeos... guajeros are something very very different..
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2013
    Richie Blondet likes this.
  8. TwoCentsTipper

    TwoCentsTipper Rhythm Deputy

    To my understanding mambo represents both the music and the dance. The music was derived from the Danzon wich was mostly played by orquestas tipicas and the charangas francesas (charangas) bands in Cuba. According to couple of sources it was Arsenio Rodriguez who “…was credited with bringing the mambo rhythm into the dance-halls from the Congolese-derived religious groups.“ (Hence the name mambo – Conversation with the gods in Kikongo language). But the real credit seems to go more to Cachao who introduced several elements of the mambo into danzones that he composed for Arcano y sus Maravillas, who were already using the term “Vamos a mambear - let’s mambo” when they were active.

    Later on it seems that orquestas tipicas went extinct and the mix of danzon-mambo was adopted by the charangas. I haven’t seen many sources attributing Perez Prado as the inventor. He seems to me that he was more the exporter of the genre to Mexico.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2013
    Richie Blondet likes this.
  9. Richie Blondet

    Richie Blondet Shine Officer

    I remember years back when the documentary COMO MI RITMO NO HAY DOS was first released and Cachao experienced a huge revival of his career, the whole notion started by the actor Andy Garcia that Cachao 'created' the Mambo began. Expressing that he and his brother Orestes added a 'Mambo' section to the danzon and then claiming that the Cuban Jam Sessions or Descargas added to the whole musical and dance craze.

    The late percussionist Armando Sanchez [Orq. Nuevo Ritmo, Conjunto Son De La Loma] who was living in upper manhattan at the time, heard and read about all of this and shook his head. He wasn't digging these assertions at all. The first time I had even heard Arsenio's name ever mentioned revolving around 'Mambo' was from him.

    More later..
  10. DJ Yuca

    DJ Yuca El Sabroso de Conguero

    I thought he was a comedian (see Godfather 3).
    Richie Blondet likes this.
  11. edsel

    edsel Son Montuno

    Starting a threat with the subject of Mambo is very important. The mambo has a lot to do with what is called salsa and latin jazz or afrocuban jazz. Mambo is a word which has a lot of meanings in Cuba especially in it's kikongo-version. Let start where the word "mambo" comes from, there is a rumba in Cuba called "rumba yambu" which contains the word "Yambu", Yambu is derived from the Kikongo dyambu (word, opinion, thought, judgement, etc.) The plural of dyambu is mambu, which is the source of the word and the dance mambo in Cuba.

    More to come..
  12. edsel

    edsel Son Montuno

    To go a little bit further, Arsenio Rodriguez took part in an old rumba form called Yuka. The Kongo cabildo is known for its use of yuka drums, as well as gallos (a form of song contest),Yuka drum music eventually evolved into what is known as rumba, which has become internationally popular. These gallos had to listen to each other in their contests and they brought up their thoughts, judgements, opinions (mambu/mambo) these contests inspired Arsenio to use them in his montuno and mambo-sections of his Son Montuno. In his mambo-section he used the trumpets as a kind gallos in a contest, putting short phrases (riffs) on these trumpets.....

    More to come......
  13. edsel

    edsel Son Montuno

    Let's give Arsenio Rodriguez the stage (first in Spanish than English):
    El tresero y compositor matancero Arsenio Rodríguez:
    Los descendientes de congos tocan una música que se llama tambor de yuca y en la controversia que forman uno y otro cantante, siguiendo el ritmo me inspiré y esa es la base verdadera del mambo. La palabra mambo es africana, del dialecto congo. Un cantante le dice al otro: «abre cuto güiri mambo», o sea: «abre el oído y oye lo que te voy a decir». Lo primero que compuse en este estilo fue Yo soy kangá; el primer «diablo» o mambo que se grabó en discos fue So caballo.

    The tres player Arsenio Rodriguez and composer from Matanzas, Cuba: Descendants of Congos in Cuba play a music called yuka drum and a son gcontest with one singer against the other, I was inspired by the rhythm and that is the true basis of the mambo. The word mambo is african, congo dialect. A singer says to the other: "mambo open your ear and listen", or "open ear and hear what you'll say." The first thing I wrote in this style was I am Kanga, the first "devil" or mambo that was recorded on discs So horse .

    More to come..
  14. edsel

    edsel Son Montuno

    In Cuba you had a great music researcher called O.Urfé, also a pianist who did research as what the meanings are of the word "Mambo", this is important because important musicians which played in New York such as the orquesta of José Curbelo and later T. Puente tried to build a synthesis of the different meanings. First in Spanish

    Un primer acercamiento al problema nos lo ofrece el director de orquesta y compositor Obdulio Morales, para quien mambo es una voz espontánea, “una expresión, un grito de un bailador durante un mambo cualquiera y fue repetido por los demás bailadores hasta patentizarse". A este punto de vista de Morales, que data de 1948, responde musicólogo y pianista Odilío Urfé el mismo año: «En la ceremonia vodú que practica la gran mayoría del pueblo haitiano, llámasele mambo a la sacerdotisa que oficia ese acto religioso»; y en otra parte de esta definición: «Mambo es una expresión muy común entre los colum- bianos (individuos que practican la rumba columbia), y significa eficiencia, exigencia, asentimiento en la acción de ejecutar una columbia.» Después afirma: «Palo mambo es un toque de raíz africana, raramente oído en la actualidad»; y concluye Urfé: «Mambo es el título de un danzón del compositor popular Orestes López..

    A first approach to the problem of the meaning of the word mambo offers the conductor and composer Obdulio Morales, for whom mambo is a spontaneous voice, "an expression, a cry of a dancer during a mambo and was repeated by the other dancers to make itself felt." To this view of Morales, dating from 1948, musicologist and pianist responds odilio Urfé the same year: "In the practice of a voodoo ceremony that the vast majority of the Haitian people practice, llámasele mambo is a priestess officiating at the religious act," and elsewhere in this definition ". Mambo is a very common expression among Columbians (individuals practicing the rumba columbia) meaning efficiency, demand, consent to the action of executing a columbia" Then he says, "is Palo mambo is an African rhythm/toque, rarely heard today, "and Urfé concludes with" Mambo is the title of a popular danzon of the composer Orestes López ...

    A lot of meanings and all are true....

    More to come..
  15. arsenio123

    arsenio123 Son Montuno

    The great song of Arsenio Rodriguez Dile A Catalina played by Grupo Folklorico Nuevayorkino.


    MAMBO_CEC Capitán Del Estilo

  17. arsenio123

    arsenio123 Son Montuno

    I do not know who Edsel is, I do know who Arsenio was!

    MAMBO_CEC Capitán Del Estilo

  19. arsenio123

    arsenio123 Son Montuno

    Andy Gonzalez and Friends know were the music came from. Nelson Gonzalez plays tres like Arsenio Rodriguez...

  20. arsenio123

    arsenio123 Son Montuno

    In Cuba they recreated Conjunto Arsenio Rodriguez, Cuba greatest tresero!


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