Habanera (music)

Habanera (music)

The habanera is a musical style or genre from Cuba with a characteristic "Habanera rhythm"; it is one of the oldest mainstays of Cuban music and the first of the dances from Cuba to be exported all over the world.


In the mid-19th century, the habanera developed out of the contradanza which had arrived 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 contradanza was rhythmic, as the habanera incorporated Spanish and African influences into its repertoire.

It is believed that the habanera was brought back to Spain by sailors, where it became very popular for a while before the turn of the twentieth century. Spanish composer Sebastian Yradier was known especially for his habanera "La Paloma", which achieved great fame in Spain and America and was largely responsible for the habanera's success to come. The habanera was danced by all classes of society, and had its moment of glory in English and French "salons" (ballrooms). The habanera was so well established as a "Spanish" dance that Jules Massenet included one in the ballet music to his opera "Le Cid" (1885), to lend atmospheric color. Of French habaneras meant to give "Spanish" color, the "Habanera" from Bizet's "Carmen" (1875) is the definitive example to the average listener, though the piece is directly derived from one of Yradier's compositions (the habanera "El Arreglito"). Maurice Ravel wrote a "Vocalise-Étude en forme de Habanera", Camille Saint-Saëns' "Havanaise" for violin and orchestra is still played and recorded today, as well as Emmanuel Chabrier's "Habañera for orchestra".


Back in Cuba the habanera developed into the danzón with the formation of charangas and the further inclusion of African elements. In the 1930s, habanera performer Arcaño y sus Maravillos incorporated influences from conga and added a "montuno" (as in "son"), paving the way for the mixing of Latin musical forms, including "guaracha", also played by a charanga orchestra. Guaracha (sometimes simply called charanga) also drew from Haitian musical forms, has been extremely popular and continues to entertain Cuban audiences.

Elements of habanera were also integrated into American jazz by New Orleans musicians such as Jelly Roll Morton who called it the Spanish Tinge, and later by Cuban musicians such as Juan Tizol and Chano Pozo.

Geographical area

In Catalonia and Valencia, mainly Alicante [Berenguer González, Ramón T, [http://soundclick.com/share?songid=5499238 "La Comisión de San Roque" Habanera Mp3·] ISWC: T-042192386-5 2007"] the habaneras, or havaneres, as they are called there, have become particularly popular in the sailor zones. The habanera "El meu avi" (My grandfather) is known by nearly the entire population.

The b-sides to Kate Nash's 2007 single Foundations, was entitled 'Habanera' [ [http://www.7digital.com/artists/kate-nash/foundations/: Kate Nash - Foundations Downloads - 7digital] ] . It was a song written in this Caribbean tango style of music.

ound Files

* Legran Orchestra [http://soundclick.com/share?songid=5499238 "La Comisión de San Roque" Habanera" Mp3·] ISWC: T-042192386-5 2007. "Published with the permission of the owner of rights"

ee also

* "Contradanza"

Notes & References

* [http://www.lordtiger.com/3habanera.html Cuban Music Website: "3-Habanera and danzón"]
* Orovio, Helio. 1981. Diccionario de la Música Cubana. La Habana, Editorial Letras Cubanas. ISBN 959-10-0048-0

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