Cuba Music: The Best Instrumental Songs

Looking for some great Cuban music to add to your collection? Check out our picks for the best instrumental songs from the island nation!


Havana is the capital of Cuba and its largest city. The city has a long history, dating back to its founding by the Spanish in 1519. Havana is a major center of culture and art in Cuba, and is home to many of the island’s best-known musicians and singers. The city is also known for its vibrant nightlife, which includes a wide variety of Cuban music genres such as son, salsa, rumba, and reggaeton.


“Guantanamera” (Spanish pronunciation: [ɡwantaˈnamera]; English: “Woman from Guantánamo”) is one of the best-known Cuban songs. The lyrics were written in 1928 by Cuban poet José Martí. The original poem is called “Versos Sencillos” (“Simple Verses”). It was set to music and became enormously popular in Cuba after being sung by Mexican actress and singer Carmen Guerra in the film cantinflas Guantanamera (1933).

The song has been recorded by many artists and in many languages. In 1966, Cuban singer-songwriter Pablo Milanés wrote a new set of lyrics for the song, which were subsequently adapted into English by Joan Baez. These versions are usually titled “Guajira Guantanamera”.

Chan Chan

“Chan Chan” is a song composed by Cuban composer and singer-songwriter Compay Segundo. The song was popularized by the Buena Vista Social Club, and has since become one of the most famous Cuban songs. The lyrics of “Chan Chan” are about a man who is waiting for his love to return to him.

El Carretero

El Carretero is a guajiro son montuno. It was composed by Arsenio Rodriguez and first recorded in 1947. The song features Rodriguez’s signature tres guitar playing, as well as vocal parts by Abelardo Barroso and Lorenzo Hierrezuelo.

The song is about a Cuban country man who sings about his life as a carretero (road worker). The lyrics paint a picture of a hardworking man who is content with his life despite the hardships he faces.

El Carretero has been covered by many artists, including Celia Cruz, Buena Vista Social Club, and Omara Portuondo.

La Bamba

“La Bamba” is a Mexican folk song, originally from Veracruz, that has become a standard part of the repertoire of many different musicians. The song uses a distinctive 12/8 time signature, and is traditionally played with a guitar and bongos.

The original version of “La Bamba” was written by Mexican composer and folklorist Librado Neto. It was first recorded by Mexican-American singer Cindy Velasquez in the early 1940s, but didn’t gain wider popularity until it was covered by Richie Valens in 1958. Valens’ version of “La Bamba” reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making it one of the first Spanish-language songs to find widespread success in the United States.

Since then, “La Bamba” has been covered by many different artists, including Los Lobos, who had a hit with their 1987 rendition of the song. In recent years, it has also become popular as a choreographed dance at Latin music festivals and carnivals.

Mambo No. 5

The mambo is a popular Cuban dance that was first developed in the early 20th century. “Mambo No. 5” is a well-known mambo song that was composed by Cuban musician Perez Prado in 1949. The song became a global hit in the 1950s and has been covered by many artists over the years.


Salsa is a Cuban music genre that has become popular all over the world. It is a style of music that is based on Cuban rhythms and features a lot of improvisation. Salsa can be danced to by couples or in groups, and it is often performed at Latin dance clubs. The music is usually fast-paced and lively, making it perfect for dancing.


Rumba is a genre of Cuban music that originated in the highlands of eastern Cuba during the late 19th century. It is a fusion of African, Spanish and indigenous Cuban rhythms and danceable music that is often accompanied by clapping, chanting and singing. Rumba instruments include the maracas, claves, bongos, guitars, bass and percussion.

The rumba began to gain popularity in Cuba during the early 20th century and by the mid-1950s it had become one of the most popular folkloric Cuban dances. Today, rumba is danced all over the world and is enjoyed by people of all ages.


Son is a traditional style of music that originated in Cuba. It is a fusion of Spanish and African influences, and is often characterized by its use of complex harmonies and rhythms. Son is a popular music genre in Cuba, and is often performed by bands known as “soneros”. The best known soneros are likely the Buena Vista Social Club, whose album popularized the genre globally in the 1990s.


Bolero is a popular Latin style of music that originated in Cuba. It is a slow and sensual dance style that is often used in slow-tempo songs. Bolero music often features Spanish guitars, piano, and percussion instruments. This type of music is perfect for slow dancing and romantic nights.

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