The mambo enjoys a rich past, originating in afro-caribbean and latin american cultures found on the island of cuba. Cuba had always been able to boast an amazing delivery of dances and rhythms. By the 1940’s, a new and exciting sound, originally led by oddilio urfe and arsenio rodriguez, was beginning to emerge. Then by 1945, a cuban band leader based in mexico, damaso perez prado, developed a style, a mixture of latin with a heavy jazz influence, had turned it into the latest dance craze. This hot new dance, the mambo, is believed to have been named after the voodoo priests who are able to send devotees into wild, hypnotic dances. The mambo was initially condemned by the church in some latin american countries and restricted by the authorities in others. But, like any other forbidden fruit, the mambo gained in popularity and flourished.
By the 1950’s, the mambo had begun to establish itself as a favourite in the u.s.a., spured on by hollywood and the amazing popularity of ‘perez prado’. Prado was one of the original ‘mambo kings’ along with names like tito puente, israel lopez cachao and the legendary mambo musician machito, all of whom performed at the famous palladium in new york. They were joined by probably the greatest vocal interpreter of mambo, benny more. The singer celia cruz also became a latin legend. But, it was prado’s hits such as ‘mambo no.5’, mambo no.8’,’ mambo jumbo’ and ‘guaglione’ that really brought the music and dance to explode onto the wider world dance scene to become the enduring favourite that it is today.