Cumbia is a popular dance music from the Atlantic coast of Colombia, from Afro-Colombian culture. The music was birthed in the 1940s from the Costeño music style. Cumbia was originally labelled musica tropical. Later in the 1960s, it took the name Cumbia, which comes from the African word cumbe which means to dance. It might have come from other variations--caracumbe, paracumbé, or the Cuban word cumbancha.


The roots of Cumbia is debated, but it is not debated that cumbia came from Afro-descendant populations. Some scholars say Cumbia originates from Pocabuy Banco or Magdalena. Others claim Cienaga (Magdalena) or Soledad (Atlántico). Cumbia music developed around a dance called the cumbiamba. Traditional cumbia came in two form: one played with a pito a clarinet-like instrument and another style played with two gaito, indian flute. The pito form was accompanied by three drummers and one shaker player. Playing with the two gaito also had drum accompaniment. In both styles, singing was optional.

By the 1940s, Cumbia became acceptable among the Colombian elites. This was largely due to Lucho Bermudez and his Orquesta del Caribe. During the 1960s, we see stylistic changes occuring in the Cumbia. Horn sections were added with the accordion and the bass guitar. In addition, the popularity spread outside the country. Groups like Los Corraleros, Los Graduados, helped spread a simple version of Cumbia outside of Colombia. By the 1970s, the Vallenato, another Afro-Colombian style, supplanted Cumbia as the most representative Colombian style of music.


The rhythmic texture of Cumbia is lite. It accentuates the downbeat, rather than having syncopated beats. Traditional Cumbia ensemble consisted of  the alegre drum, llamador drum, bass drum, maracas, and guache. The modern style incorporates guitar, bass guitar, and accordion. The alegre drum was used for the backup rhythm. The llamador drum was used for the back-beat. The bass drum was used for the heavy bass rhythm. Maracas and guaches were used for overtones.

The singing style is usually comprised of a soloist and group, repeating two bar phrases between each other. The accordion provides the melody. Sonadero in central Mexico, incorporates the piano. Improvisation is valued.


Cumbia is popular in Central and South American countries: Chile, Ecuador, Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru. Numerous regional styles have been derived: cumbia mexicana( comprise of cumbia norteña and sonadero), cumbia villera from Buenos Aires, cumbia andina, techno-cumbia from Peru.

Works Cited

Discover Colombia. Cumbia, the Rhythm of Colombia. retrieved 12-Oct-2011.<>
Tomás Cruz, Kevin Moore, Mike Gerald, Orlando Fiol(2004). The Tomas Cruz Conga Method, Volume II: Intermediate: Essential Cuban Conga Rhythms. Mel Bay Publication. ISBN 0786670800, 9780786670802

Allatson, Paul(2007).Key Terms in Latino/a cultural and Literary studies.Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 91. ISBN 1405102519, 9781405102513

Cordelia Candelaria, Peter J. García, Arturo J. Aldama(2004). Encyclopedia of Latino Popular Culture. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 215,  ISBN 031333210X, 9780313332104

Related Article: Yoruba People , 

External Links:

YouTube Video