In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Bugalú

  • Introduction
  • The Influence of Cuban Music
  • The Influence of Puerto Rican Music

Latino Studies Bugalú
Gustavo Pérez-Firmat
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 March 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 March 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0084


Cuban music has had a strong presence in American culture since the 1930s, when the rumba craze swept the country. In the 1950s, other Cuban rhythms—the mambo, the chachachá, and later the pachanga—became popular throughout the United States, including African American Harlem and the Latin barrio adjacent to it, Spanish Harlem. Puerto Rico was also a source of Latin music, especially popular in the Nuyorican areas of the South Bronx. But by the early 1960s, Harlem and Spanish Harlem resounded with African American rhythm and blues, rock n’ roll, and doo-wop. At about the same time, the Cuban Revolution of 1959 led to the severing of ties between the United States and Cuba, and Latin musicians in the United States were cut off from one of their main sources of musical inspiration. As rock n’ roll music and pop imports took over the recording industry, Latin artists tried to incorporate the new sounds into their repertoire. The reverse also happened: since New York City record promoters and producers of the era handled both Latin and African American musicians and vocal groups, Latin rhythms made their way into recordings by black and white performers. Latin and African American musicians played together in the bands, the recording studios, and in the small nightclubs and house parties in the African American and Latin sections of Harlem. The bugalú or Latin boogaloo emerged in the 1960s as a hybrid genre nurtured by Latin, African American, and pop influences. The shared experiences of life in the ghetto, its violence, drugs, and gangs, became a part of bugalú, and the mix of English and Spanish in the lyrics reflects the increasing use of English by the younger Latino population of New York City. In 1966, pianist and bandleader Johnny Colón wrote and arranged “Boogaloo Blues,” which was played on the popular New York radio show of disc jockey Symphony Sid (Sid Torin, born Sidney Tarnopol). Both Latin and Anglo New York City went bugalú crazy. Immensely popular for a few years, the bugalú faded out by the end of the 1960s. Younger musicians claimed that the older, more established Latin bandleaders, who favored the “pure” Cuban sound, exerted their influence on agents and promoters and led to the demise of the new music. Others acknowledged that the rise of salsa on albums produced and marketed by Fania Records pushed bugalú out of the music scene. In the early 21st century there has been a resurgence in the music’s popularity. Bugalú revival bands, such as Ray Lugo & the Boogaloo Destroyers and Spanglish Fly, perform and record classic bugalú.

The Influence of Cuban Music

The Cuban guaracha, mambo, and chachachá, along with the son montuno, formed part of the combination of Latin styles that were part of bugalú or Latin boogaloo. Traditional Cuban instruments, such as timbales, conga, and bongo drums were featured in every bugalú band. Gray 2013 presents a comprehensive bibliography of Cuban music, while Leymarie 2002 traces the history and genres of Cuban music on the island and in the United States, along with the influence of Africa on the island’s music. O’Mahoney 1997 is a useful resource for the development of Cuban percussion patterns, and Orovio 2004 offers encyclopedia entries on various aspects of Cuban music and instruments.

  • Gray, John. Baila! A Bibliographic Guide to Afro-Latin Dance Musics from Mambo to Salsa. Black Music Reference 4. Nyack, NY: African Diaspora, 2013.

    Bibliography of primary- and secondary-source materials pertaining to Afro-Latin music.

  • Leymarie, Isabelle. Cuban Fire: The Story of Salsa and Latin Jazz. London: Continuum, 2002.

    Detailed study traces the history of Cuban music and its major artists from the 1920s until the turn of the 21st century; development of genres, both in Cuba and in exile, including bugalú.

  • O’Mahoney, Terry. “An Abbreviated History of Cuban Music and Percussion.” Percussive Notes 35.1 (1997): 14–19.

    Surveys historical aspects of Cuban music, including African influences, discography, and percussive diagrams.

  • Orovio, Helio. Cuban Music from A to Z. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1215/9780822385219

    Brief but comprehensive entries on forms of Cuban music, performers, and instruments, including origins, musical construction, and variations.

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