A typical Curaзao party isn’t complete without its great blend of rhythm. Curaзao’s music can be subdivided into three categories; European, African and Modern. The popular ‘Curaзao waltz’ has been influenced by the Austrian waltz, the Spanish dansa (Puerto Rico), the Bohemian polka, de Polish mazurka, the French quadrille, the chamber orchestras and the Kaha di orgel (box-shaped street organ) that traveled from Berlin through Italy, Spain and Venezuela. These rhythms were introduced mainly by Jewish immigrants and caught on with people of all walks of life.

Negroes initiated the music of African origin on their primitive instruments: benta, the flute, the large drum (tambъ) and the triangle. This music is called zumbi music in Curaзao, zumbi has a double meaning of ‘erring spirit’, but also ‘slave’. Zumbi music is very rhythmical, though not very melodious. The tambъ, also known as the Curaзao blues, was first used by slaves to express their sorrow, their hardship and their frustration by means of songs and is accompanied by women’s clapping. The distinctive African dance style of the tambъ combines isolation of body parts with elaborate hip gyrations. The Curacao Museum and Landhuis Brievengat have several of these instruments on display.

The seÑŠ was a festive march through the fields in past days, as laborers took the crops of the harvest to the warehouses. Women carried baskets loaded with produce on their heads, while the men played drums and the chapi and blew on hollowed out cow’s horns (kachÑŠ) to announce the celebrations. These traditional rhythms of the harvest festival lives on in the annual folklore parade held in Willemstad on Easter Monday.


One of the most important forms of Curaзao music is the tumba. This music is originally African, but the word tumba comes from a Spanish dance from the 17th century. Tumba is best known for its part in the official Carnival Road March; the tumba precedes Carnival and was played as early as the 19th century (whereas Carnival of Curaзao is a 20th century phenomenon). Today’s tumba in Carnival has taken on its own rhythm, with influences of the merengue and other Afro-Caribbean rhythms.

Rich as Curaзao’s musical heritage is, local music continues to develop. Composers draw on the many influences of local culture to create their own syntheses. Twentieth century immigrants brought merengue, calypso, reggae, salsa, cha-cha-cha and other Afro-Caribbean rhythms from Cuba, Panama, Santo Domingo, Surinam and other islands. Today, as throughout its history, local music draws heavily on other traditions, incorporating Papiamentu words and rhythms of African origin into a new synthesis. The local people are great fans of salsa and merengue, as well as the melodic guitars of Caribbean trios and the sentimental Mexican mariachi.