A music and dance genre born in Havana’s Silver Star Club in the early 1950s, first classified as a mambo-rumba by its creator, the violinist and composer Enrique Jorrín (1926-1987). While Jorrín’s musical genius undoubtedly produced the cha-cha-chá, it owed much to the mambo and, with it, to the rhythmic innovations of “Arcaño y sus Maravillas” during the late 1930s. Jorrín, accompanied by the “Orquesta América,” played the first cha-cha-chá, La engañadora, in 1951. He followed his initial success with other favorites such as El alardoso, El túnel, Nada para ti, and Me muero.
Jorrín crafted his new style with dancers in mind. He originally composed works for the danzón-mambo genre, gradually simplifying the form with melodies that have no syncopation. Thus, dancers simply follow the melody and may improvise their own steps. The typical pattern, the escobillo, takes a 1-2, 1-2-3 alternating sequence that caught on as quickly as the music itself. Another typical feature of Jorrín’s new style was the vocal participation of the orchestra. He entrusted the singing of the lyrics, in unison, to the band, a feature that the public enjoyed.
During the 1950s, cha-cha-chá competed with mambo both in Cuba and abroad. Following Jorrín’s success, other talents rode cha-cha-chá wave such as Antonio Sánchez with Yo sabía, Félix Reina with Angoa, Rosendo Ruiz and his Rico vacilón, Rosendo Rosell with Calculadora, and Eduardo “Richard” Egües with the classic El bodeguero. The “Orquesta Aragón,” more so than any other band, specialized in the new genre.