The History of Cumbia for you Zumba Fans!

WITH COLOMBIA’S CUMBIA, THE BEAT GOES ON

So we all know how to do our cumbia moves in Zumba class. But do we know where that fantastic cumbia music came from?
Of course we do! Don’t we? A little history please! Cumbia refers to a Colombian folk-dance music approach and its dominant rhythm, which, over time, became part of a great deal of Latin-American music in the Northern Hemisphere.

To know cumbia is to love cumbia, let’s learn a little about its history. Cumbia was a fusion of the customs of three completely different cultures: descendants of European colonists, mainly Hispanics, who influenced the music’s melodic progressions; former slaves of African descent, who contributed the rhythms and percussion instruments; and native Americans descended from Andean tribes, who affected cumbia’s melodic and harmonic sense and also contributed the flutes on which Cumbia was initially played. Legend has it that the reason you drag one foot while doing the cumbia is because the slaves, who influenced the dance, were chained together by the feet. One of these steps, in particular, is referred to as the “sleepy leg.”

Since then, cumbia has become largely associated with Colombia, where it’s a proud cultural favorite. Cumbia’s distinctive sound has been greatly influenced by Colombia’s geographical location on the northern coast. Caribbean music, like Jamaican popular, reggae and calypso as well as other Caribbean styles have significantly shaped the way cumbia sounds today. In its purest form, cumbia is played using a combination of African drums and Native American flutes. Later, the accordion became its most popular lead instrument.

Cumbia’s infectious, highly danceable beat found its way overseas in the 1960s and became a popular sound for many Latin bands and orchestras. In Mexico, it was such a hit, many groups integrated it into their repertoire of songs.

The cumbia tradition also helped give rise to vallenato, a similar style that became Colombia’s signature sound during the late 20th century. Cumbia’s passion and flavor made a positive impact on Colombia since it first appeared on the scene, and its influence can still be felt there today.

Now, how about a little cumbia dancing to show us what you’ve learned?

If you’re going to be authentic, you have to dress the part, right? So, grab your garb and follow these six traditional cumbia steps:

  1. First, start off with a “pollera” (a traditional Colombian skirt). Don’t have one handy? Time to surf the Internet.
  2. With your left hand, hold up your skirt to your side.
  3. Move your left foot back, just a little bit, but keep it next to your right foot.
  4. Keep your left foot back, lift your heel up just a little bit.
  5. Move your right foot back-to-back or side-to-side. Do this while moving your hips side-to-side.
  6. Move your pollera back and forth, back and forth, kind of forming an 8 as seen from the side.

There, you just performed an authentic cumbia dance. Maybe now you’ll feel like bringing your pollera to your next Zumba class!

Taken from Zumba Monthly