Habanera (music) - History - Cuba


In the mid-19th century, the habanera developed from the French contradanza, which had arrived in Cuba (from France via Haiti) with refugees from the Haitian revolution in 1791. The earliest identified "contradanza habanera" is La Pimienta, an anonymous song published in an 1836 collection. The main innovation from the French contradanza was rhythmic, as the habanera incorporated the tresillo into its structure.

Another novelty was that, unlike the older contradanza, the habanera was sung as well as danced. The habanera is also slower and, as a dance, more graceful in style than the older contradanza. The music, written in 2/4 time, features an introduction followed by two parts of 8 to 16 bars each. The upbeat on two-and in the middle of the bar is the power of the habanera rhythm, especially when it is in the bass. The earliest known piece to use the habanera rhythm in the left hand of the piano was "La pimienta," written in 1836.

In Cuba, the habanera was supplanted by the danzón from the 1870s onwards. Musically, the danzón has a different but related rhythm, the baqueteo, and as a dance it is quite different. Also, the danzón was not sung for over forty years after its invention. In the twentieth century the habanera gradually became a relic form in Cuba, especially after success of the danzón and later the son. However, some of its compositions were transcribed and reappeared in other formats later on. Eduardo Sánchez de Fuentes' habanera is still a much-loved composition, showing that the charm of the habanera is not dead yet.

In 1995 a modern Cuban artist recorded a complete disc in the habanera genre, when singer/songwriter Liuba Maria Hevia recorded some songs researched by musicologist Maria Teresa Linares. The artist, unhappy with the technical conditions at the time (Cuba was in the middle of the so-called Periodo Especial), re-recorded most of the songs on the 2005 CD Angel y su habanera. The original CD Habaneras en el tiempo (1995) sold poorly in Cuba, which underlines the fading interest in this kind of music there, contrasting with the vigorous popularity of the habanera in the Mediterranean coast of Spain.

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