It is by several different paths that European contradanse
arrives in Cuba at the end of 18th century : it directly reaches the heart of Havana, in
the West, by the arrival of English boats, and at the same time it lands in the East with
the French colonists avoiding Haiti in revolution.
Thanks to Black Cuban musicians' influence which it becomes a predilection style, the contredanse crossbreeds and gives birth to the contradanza : this half-fashionable, a little stiff,
animates receptions in the end of 19th century, with the sound of fifes, clarinet, horn,
violins, double bass, guďro and
The credit for having create the danzón, in 1879, is due to Miguel Failde Pérez (who would never imagined that his name
appears one day on the Net!), cornet player of Matanzas (Cuba) : by injecting a vigorous
syncopation, he brushes away the contradanza form. The danzon will be danced in couple, while following a strict
structure, but the parts (alternation of paseos acting as
refrain, allegretto trio of clarinet, andante trio of violin, allegro
trio of brass) are now opened to improvisation.
The time make still evolve the form by integration of elements come from others styles,
like the eternal son, under the José
Urfé's influence, around the 10th years.
In 1929, Aniceto Diáz will improve the formula (with its
composition Rompiendo the rutina) to challenge to
the son - the great rival -, creating thus the danzonete. Later, others famous descendants will come, as the cha cha chá and the mambo,
while passing initially by the ritmo nuevo.
Musical style derived from the mambo, and created by Dámaso Pérez Prado in the early 60ties.
In France, we say "faire un boeuf" ; in the USA, it is called a jam-session :
i.e. a meeting of musicians, playing together and giving the best of themselves in large
improvisation parts. Of course, a descarga is good if the musicians have talent, and
something to give...
It's under the jazz influence, with its trail of outstanding musicians, that the formula
penetrated Latin music, and was dveloped in New York during the 50ties by the Cuban double
bass player Israel "Cachao"Lopez.
The word is pioneered by the fidgety Elio Revé to excite the
public and warm up the atmosphere : " ˇ Tremendo despelote
The formula collected a following, in a modern Cuban salsa, especially frantic and
restless (Charanga Habanera, Paulito
y su Elite (" ˇ Sofocacion !"), Pachito
Alonso y sus Kini Kini, Manolin "El Medico de la
Salsa", ...). The word is an allusion to the way to dance : boys... and above all
girls roll their hips with frenzy, with their arms above their head ; their hands are
opened, as if they roll a big ball in them : ˇ despelote !