Cumbia

Cumbia is Colombia’s national dance, one of its most representative rhythms and the source and inspiration behind much of the country’s popular music. Cumbia has been with Colombia from the beginning but, thanks to bands like Bomba Estereo, it’s once again emerging onto the international stage. Here’s everything you need to know:

Where did cumbia come from? 

Cumbia, just like Colombia, is a blend between European, African and indigenous cultures. It was born on Colombia’s Caribbean coast where it was originally an African courtship dance that evolved with the addition of African, European and indigenous instruments and indigenous dance steps. 

What does it involve?

To dance cumbia you need one of two musical ensembles – a conjunto de cumbia (also known as a cumbiamba) or a conjunto de gaitas. The cumbia ensemble has five instruments; the caña de millo (millet cane) or pito, which is a type of clarinet, the tambor mayor (a drum held between the legs, played with both hands) the llamador (a drum balanced on the knee, played with one hand) the bombo (a two-headed drum played with two sticks) and a rattle, usually the guache (a tubular rattle filled with seeds) or maracasThe gaitas ensemble has two gaitas (duct flutes) – the gaita hembra and the gaita macho – alongside a