“La Clave” — Rumba Documentary + Notes

La Clave — Trailer

One of my favourite documentaries ever. Watched it in 2016 during its Toronto premiere and now it’s all up on Youtube!

Enjoy :)

Episode 1 of 6 — Rumba, the Heart of Cuba

Rumba as the Heart/Base of Cuban music

  • Matanzas, Cuba (Very important to the history of Rumba).
  • Rumba rises from the docks. Humble origins.
  • Musical language, like spoken language… Rumba changes and evolves over time.
  • Relationship with the Cuban Son (another form of Music).

Episode 2 of 6 — The Drum


  • Clave is KEY
  • The drum as a literal and symbolic/metaphoric combination of Tree, Animal, People… It is a representation of LIFE
  • Drums as a way of moving ENERGY


  1. Clave (Similar to “Inner Pulse” as a Drummer)
  2. Kata (Similar to Hi Hat function on Set Drums — Cascara)
  3. Three Drums…
  • History: Slavemasters feared drumming, due to the possibility of slave mutinies. Testament to the power of rhythm and movement.
Joke about Rumberos: “You can’t have wooden furniture!”
  • Olofin… Ana (Over 200 years old. Oldest drums in Cuba)
“With very little you can do great things”

Episode 3 of 6 — The Sacred and the Profane

The Sacred and the Profane

  • Drums are considered to be living beings.
  • Treat drums with love
  • An Orisha is in the drum! (literally + metaphorically!)
  • Different pitches are absolutely critical. (Bata Drumming)
  • They play melodies for different Orishas.
  • Yoruba is a TONAL LANGUAGE. The tones of the drums are important because the drums literally SING!
  • Ana and the Prayer of the Drum


  • All male sect… Similar to Secret Societies like Freemasons etc
  • Brotherhood…
  • Test to see who’s the most knowledgeable… Not about arguing… Just to see how people are, where they’re going… playful banter and storytelling through music, song and dance.
  • The clave originates from Abakua
“The more you know, the better your dancing will be.”

Episode 4 of 6 — The Voice

The Voice

  • Percussion as a telegraph… Message is in the text you sing…
  • Oldest form of “Rap”
  • The intro (Diana) of any Rumba identifies the type of Rumba song, be it Guaguanco…Yambu… etc.
  • Singing as Talking
  • You can fuse Rumba with EVERYTHING! > Flow
“Everything is Connected.”

Episode 5 of 6 — The Dance

The Dance (Three main Types)


  • Partner dance
  • Man closes woman’s movements.
  • “Vaccination”. His aim is to “vaccinate her” ;)
  • She blocks!
  • Competition! Can he? Can she? Who’s got the CHOPS?


  • Romantic partner dance
  • Elegant
  • Most genuine place where women can express her sensuality
  • Make-believe that the dancers are “old”


  • Time to FLEX
  • Toe + Heel movements!
  • Shoulders!
  • Quinto (drum/drummer) has to match the dancer
  • It has to Call to you.
  • Both Women and Men do it. Traditionally it’s men showing off. Peacocking. Strutting. Flexing.
“[Dance is] The fountain where I quench my body’s thirst for movement.”

Episode 6 of 6 — The Future

The Future of Rumba

  • Fundamentals… (Old vs. New)
  • Rumba evolves with the times…
  • Find a way to make people DANCE!

Havana Club Rumba Sessions [Havana Cultura]

Bands/Artists Mentioned In the Documentary

  • Timbalaye
  • Osain del Monte
  • Dayme Arocena
  • Rumberos de Cuba