The Latin Contradanza of Spain in the seventeenth century would finally arrive in Cuba and become known as the Danza (National Dance.) This danza when mixed with the Haitian slave music style called the Cinquillo set the stage for the Mambo. The word Mambo has some Voodoo (Haiti / African) connections as well to describe the Voodoo priestess in Haiti. However Mambo as an African word means "Chorus or Voices". In Congolese the word Mambo refers to a lullaby or sacred songs and is identified with the Congo step. Trinidad has its offering as well in the "Shango Step." Others say that in the argot of the Cuban sugar cane hackers it means "shake it ... and that if you do just that you'll do all right on the dance floor."
Some say it was Francisco "Machito" Grillo and Prado. The so called "King of Mambo ... Perez Prado" says he created the Mambo music in 1943 at the Casino de la Playa Hotel in Havana (at age 16) and introduced it at the "Los Angeles Dance Hall" in Mexico city, while others state it was at the La Tropicana nightclub in Havana in 1943. (The first location in the United States was at the Park Plaza Hotel in New York City about 1949). However it was Orestes Lopez who first composed the title song called "Mambo" in 1938. Prado is said to have copied Lopez in 1943.
Mambo really flourished in the 1950's as the Rumba was exhausting its enthusiasm. In a few of the old Cuban dance magazines of the 1950's I have acquired, basically blast the American version of the Mambo dance as a "novelty dance" with no real connection to authentic Mambo, calling it closer to the American Jitterbug than the real authentic Mambo (sheesh!).
According to the 12/1953
issue of the Dance magazine which states:
"What's in a name, is the smooth sophisticated Cuban style Rumba finding popular acceptance under the name Mambo. The term Mambo is today (1953) used to designate two forms of Rumba which are quite dissimilar in appearance. As a foundation for either the smooth or the hectic style, however, the same or similar basic rhythm and step variations are taught. The outward differences come later, depending on the skill attained, the predominance of smooth or jazzed up band music, conservative or Jitterbug temperaments and a predilection for closed dancing or for opened up fancy steps.
The basic Mambo step is derived from the "Cuban style Rumba". The basic Cuban style Rumba uses a "Jazz Diamond Pattern" instead of the "American Square or Box" pattern, basically meaning forward and back and side to side (See Diagram #2). And that the steps are 2,3,4 instead of the 1,2,3 as in the Rumba. Because of the Claves (Musical Instruments) in use by the bands, a four count seems incomplete, so a two-measure phrase (eight counts) is used.
They go on to say the "Mambo has been unsuccessfully tried for years to come into the dance world, but it took a Jazzed up "Son" (rumba) by the new name of Mambo to make it happen. It goes on to say this new rhythm has been reported as being hard to teach (2,3,4 hold 1) so many studios are opting for the 1,2,3 hold 4 (QQS) as Americans are used to stepping and counting the "One" first, although the rhythm of the Mambo is in the hips, not the feet" (end.) Basically Mambo is a faster single rhythm and Cha Cha is the slower triple rhythm dance.
The Mambo's popularity was helped along by the mass amount of music created for it in a short period of time. The song titled "Mambo Italiano"
was originally banned from the radio for it's offensive words, but was later released. Many songs were written or rewritten for the Mambo from W.C. Handy's "Saint Louis Blues," Mambo Rock, to Santa Claus.
The mambo replaced the Rumba in popularity and gave birth to the Cha-Cha (or triple mambo). Desi Arnaz is credited with nationalizing Latin American music with American audiences through his television show "I Love Lucy." It continued its popularity into the 1960's right along side the Twist and Mashed potato.
The word Salsa today is used to describe the music and the dance, a modern term for Latin if you will. However the dance known as Salsa is really just a slowed down MUTATED Mambo and usually breaking on count One, rather than the Mambo's "break on Two" plus the emphasis is on dance patterns. As Tito Puente has said, "Salsa is what you eat". Mambo however is again gaining much popularity today (2010) with a little more pop or disco beat, not to mention the likes of Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Lou Bega, etc. helping it along.
The Clave: Is a five-note, bi-measure pattern which serves as the foundation for all of the rhythmic styles in salsa music. The Clave consists of a "strong" measure containing three notes (the tresillo), and a "weak" measure containing two notes, resulting in patterns beginning with either measure, referred to as "three-two" or two-three." There are two types of Clave patterns associated with popular (secular) music: the son Clave and the rumba Clave. Another type of Clave is the 6/8 Clave - originated in several styles of West African sacred music. (from: Salsa Guidebook for Piano and Ensemble, Mauleon, R. - 1993)