There is a long-held presumption that adversity is an
essential factor in the evolution of profound and lasting
art. The belief finds a compelling example in the island
nation of Cuba. There hardship and creativity seem to go
hand in hand.
Although economically disadvantaged--and politically
repressed--throughout much of its history, this small
Caribbean country emerged early in the past century as an
extraordinary cultural influence, particularly as
exemplified by its influential popular music. Indeed,
throughout much of the twentieth century, it was difficult
to find a region of the world that had not become infatuated
with Cuban song.
In the 1930s, ensembles of Cuban musicians performing such
period classics as "El Manicero" (The Peanut Vendor) became
the toast of the Continent and the Americas. By the late
1940s, just when the swing era/big-band movement went into
serious decline in the United States, venerable Afro-Cuban
rhythms fused with the emerging, highly improvisational
bebop style of modern jazz to create a dynamic new
international music idiom dubbed Cu-bop, or Latin jazz.