Havana – the Home of Mambo and Cha-cha-cha

Cuba is a hub of musical talent and has exported its artistic and cultural inventions for the world to enjoy. We can all attest that Cuba has produced some of the best music and musicians the world has seen. While we download, like and share music with the click of a mouse, we often do not take the time to appreciate the places and people who created and gave it power.


Mambo is a type of music and dance style that was created in Cuba. The word ‘mambo’ has Haitian-Creole origins, and in Congolese means ‘conversations with the gods.’ The musical form of mambo was invented in the late 1930s, and came out of the Danzon style of music. From the late 1940s through the 1960s, mambo music was played in ballrooms and nightclubs all over the world for music lovers everywhere to enjoy. The mambo style of dance came later in the 1940s as a way to dance to the mambo music, created by Cuban singer and composer Perez Prado. Originally, the style of dance was known for its complicated footsteps and was completely about feeling the music –known as the style where sounds and movements become one in the body. Today’s mambo has been modernized in the United States to be more disciplined and rigid, with easier footsteps.


The famous ballroom dance, the cha-cha-cha was also invented in Cuba in the early 1950s and is traditionally danced to music of the same name. Like the mambo, the cha-cha-cha music was invented ahead of the dance. The musical accompaniment to the dance was created by Cuban composer and violinist Enrique Jorrin, and was also derived from the Danzon style of music. The dance is named the cha-cha-cha because it sounds like dancer’s feet shuffling. The dance consists of three quick steps (triple step or cha-cha-cha) and two slower steps on the one beat and two beat. The basic footwork pattern is found in several Afro-Cuban dances. By the mid-1950s, the style of dance spread to the U.S., Europe and other parts of Latin America.


Today, the two styles of dance still remain popular for ballroom dance competitions and on reality television shows like Dancing With the Stars.


Hit some Havana Hot Spot:


1.- Salón Rosado de la Tropical – Benny Moré (La Tropical) 41st Avenue between 46 & 44, Municipio Playa To triumph in Cuba as a danceable musical group, you have to “pass the test” in this venue!


2.- Club Almendares 49th Street C & 28th A, Reparto Kohly, Playa This place is visited mostly by Cuban dance schools and dance instructors who go there to show off their latest moves.

3.- Jardines (Gardens) 1830 Malecón Street and 22nd This is the headquarters of the Círculo de Fundadores del Casino – a group of people who were some of the founding members of the Casino style back in the 50’s and beginning of the 60’s. They hold competitions and casino shows.


4.- Piano Bar Hotel Florida Obispo Street, corner with Cuba Pre-recorded and live music. Small venue, but cozy and full of salseros in the heart of Old Havana.

5.- Casa de la Música Miramar Corner 35th Ave & 20th, Miramar. The place where the best Cuban salsa groups are often seen.

At this same location there is another club called El Diablo Tun Tun which begins at eleven p.m. and closes at six in the morning.


6.- Casa de la Música Habana Galiano, between Neptuno & Concordia, Centro Habana. The new, roomier Casa de la Música in the old center of Havana is fantastic! It has 2 bars, an upper level, a larger dance floor. It was a movie theatre, but this is much nicer than the old one. 7.- Café Cantante Mi Habana Paseo & 39th, Plaza, Vedado.

8.-Piano Bar Delirio Habanero Paseo y 19 Plaza, Vedado A place to check out the poetry scene in Havana.


9.-La Cecilia Fifth Ave. between 110 & 112, Municipio Playa This is a restaurant. It does not have a regular musical program, but occasionally famous groups play live here.


10.-Cabaret Parisien Hotel Nacional, 0 & 21, Plaza, Vedado Famous for its musical reviews full of Cuban rhythm.



About the Cuban Tourism Board

The Cuban Tourism Board represents Cuba internationally as a vacation destination. Known for the warmth and friendliness of its people, spectacular beaches and reliable climate, the Cuban Tourism Board is responsible for providing leadership and awareness of Cuba’s extensive tourism offerings. Not only does Cuba have some of the most spectacular beaches in the Caribbean but it is a destination rich in culture, history and leisure activities. The Cuban Tourism Board showcases the spirit of Cuba and the wonderful opportunities the country has to offer.