John Santos - La Rumba No Es Como Ayer. ( The Rumba is Not Like yesterday )

In June I had the opportunity to attend a 7 week lecture series specifically on the subject of rumba presented by the very accomplished musician John Santos . This lecture series was presented by a partnership of the MOAD (Museum of the African Diaspora) and SF Jazz. I was fortunate to have the available time to attend each lecture of the series.

Here is the official description of the La Rumba No Es Como Ayer (The Rumba in Not Like Yesterday) lecture series copied from the website:
Presented in partnership with Yerba Buena Gardens Festival and the Museum of the African Diaspora, La Rumba No Es Como Ayer (The Rumba is Not Like Yesterday) is a seven-part lecture series that delves into the evolution, anatomy, and relevance of the Cuban rumba, one of the most important and influential musical/dance genres in the history of the Americas.

The series will trace the rumba's Kongo/Spanish origins, its birth in 19th century Havana and Matanzas provinces, and its subsequent choreographic, musical and lyrical development as it became the integral part of American music that it is today.
  • 5/5/09 Introduction
    In the first class, participants will look at the African and Spanish roots of rumba, as well as define the rumba's role as an indispensable traditional/contemporary element of Afro-Latin artistic expression.
  • 5/12/09 Yambú
    Born in the docks of Havana and Matanzas, the Yambú is one of the oldest styles of Cuban rumba. In the second session, participants will learn the specific musical, choreographic and poetic elements that identify this beautiful style.
  • 5/19/09 Columbia
    Also one of the rumba's primordial styles, the Columbia is the most African of all the rumbas. Class participants will examine the slave barrack environment where the style originated and the all-important function of coded resistance that it has always represented.
  • 5/26/09 Guaguancó
    The Guaguancó evolved to become the most popular rumba among working class Cubans. In class four, participants will study the Guaguancó—the musical voice of the barrio, representing historical affirmation, love, patriotism, sarcasm and politics.
  • 6/2/09 Rumba-son/Jiribilla/Rumba de cabaret
    In class five, participants will examine the 1920s - 1930s marriage of the two most influential styles of Cuban popular music and dance: the rumba and the son. Racism, prohibition, radio, Hollywood and New York City all play urgent roles in this chapter.
  • 6/9/09 La Rumba in salsa and in jazz
    Rumba continues to be a formidable contributor to contemporary music. In class six, participants will see how the Rumba lent form and style to Salsa and jazz.
  • 6/16/09 Guarapachangueo y la rumba moderna
So why am I posting about an event that already happened? Good question. Mainly I want to recommend this lecture series in particular and John Santos as a lecturer in general to any musicians out there that may have the opportunity to attend a similar event in the future.

Not only was the subject matter of rumba well presented and researched by John, but he was also able to add personal anecdotes, experiences and illustrations from his point of view as a musician and rumbero, in addition to being a researcher.

I've been doing quite a bit of research on the subject of rumba myself. While the lecture series accommodated people new to the subject, there remained a lot of material that was new and educational to those already quite familiar with the subject.
What I found very fascinating was the nature of the audience in attendance. I recognized few that I would call rumberos, but there were many that were accomplished musicians and dancers. A few were pointed out to me as composers and symphony directors and one interesting man was able to tell the exact interval of the tuning of drums in various music clips and videos after listening for just a few seconds. I had always kind of assumed that rumba was a very esoteric musical form. It was a nice surprise to see the quality and diversity of people and musicians interested in rumba.


  1. G,
    I haven't had the pleasure of meeting John Santos yet so I have to ask is he as "real people" as he comes accress on his web site?

    I would've liked to attend his lectures, but the verbal translations are fleeting. I prefer a book that I can always return to for reference. Have you read any books covering the topics he covered in his lectures?


  2. John is a very approachable person. He has a lot of knowledge gained from direct experience with the subject of rumba and it's artists.

    In regards to lecture versus book. In my opinion, a lecture should not be passed over; it gives a unique viewpoint into the individual lecturer's research and experiences that may not be found in another writer's book. And you can ask questions as well.

    I record all the lectures I attend, or take notes for future reference.