Guaguancó is a sub-genre of Cuban rumba, combining percussion, voices, and dance.

guaguanco-cubansGuaguancó is one of the most popular styles of rumba that is still danced today. Rumba developed among the different African ethnic groups, primarily from Central and West Africa, who were brought to Cuba as slaves.  Guaguancó, like the other rumba styles Yambu and Columbia, developed in the middle 1800’s.  Guaguancó is played in 2/4 or 4/4 tempo giving it a moderate to fast tempo. Guaguanco is danced by a male-female couple and consists of a flirtatious, sexual game with a distinctive body movement called the vacunao (“pelvic thrust) performed by the male dancer. Dance historians have noted that the vacunao is found in other African based dances in Latin America and the Guaguancó maybe derived from the “yuka”, a secular dance of the Bantu people.

“The couple begins to dance…the male dancer is more active as he circles around her without touching her. The dance climaxes as the male attempts to give the vacuano when the female is unprepared to avoid it. Much of her dancing expertise resides in her ability to entice the male while skillfully avoiding being touched by his vacunao.” (Boggs 1992)

By the turn of the century, rumba had migrated to the black working class neighborhoods of Cuban cities. The music consisted mainly of percussive instruments including drums, wooden boxes (cajones), tables and chairs, spoons and jars. During the first half of the 20th century rumba bands were comprised of singers, one or more large drums (tumbadoa-conga and tumbadora-salidor), a small conga drum (quinto) and a pair of wooden sticks (palitos) that were beaten against the side of one of the drums.

guaguanco afro-cubano

Claves (two hardwood sticks that are struck together) and the cajones were often added to the ensemble. You can still see remnants of guaguanco in the hip and pelvic motions of of today’s salsa dancers when the couple separates and each person dances “freestyle”.