Rebel Dance, Renegade Stance

Timba Music and Black Identity in Cuba
Umi Vaughan


Rebel Dance, Renegade Stance shows how community music-makers and dancers take in all that is around them socially and globally, and publicly and bodily unfold their memories, sentiments, and raw responses within open spaces designated or commandeered for local popular dance. As an African American anthropologist, musician, dancer, and photographer who lived in Cuba, Vaughan reveals a unique perspective on contemporary Cuban society during the 1990s, the peak decade of timba, and beyond, as the Cuban leadership transferred from Fidel Castro to his brother. Simultaneously, the book reveals popular dance music in the context of a young and astutely educated Cuban generation of fierce and creative performers.

By looking at the experiences of black Cubans and exploring the notion of “Afro Cuba,” Rebel Dance, Renegade Stance explains timba's evolution and achieved significance in the larger context of Cuban culture. Vaughan discusses a maroon aesthetic extended beyond the colonial era to the context of contemporary society; describes the dance spaces of Cuba; and examines the performance of identity and desire through the character of the “especulador.”

“Umi Vaughan is blessed with many gifts, and he calls upon them all to tell the story of how timba music grew from the experience of being black in Cuba. Writing with poetic precision, he asks painful questions about the continuing legacy of racism, but also offers hope for a better future. This is a book I've known since its birth and always believed in. It is without a doubt one of the gems to emerge from the new anthropology of Cuba.”
—Ruth Behar, University of Michigan, and author of Traveling Heavy: A Memoir in between Journeys

“With the passion of a dancer, the skepticism of an anthropologist, and an emphatically black perspective, Umi Vaughan articulates the complex cultural forces at work—and play—in Havana’s ecstatic, virtuosic, big-band dance music. Rebel Dance, Renegade Stance is a must-have for any reader who wants to understand the Cuban street.”
—Ned Sublette, author of Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo

Cover photo: “Guarachando (Dancing & Being),” 2003.  Image courtesy of the author.

Umi Vaughan is an artist and anthropologist who explores dance, creates photographs and performances, and publishes about African Diaspora culture. He is Associate Professor of Africana Studies at California State University, Monterey Bay, and author of Carlos Aldama's Life in Batá: Cuba, Diaspora, and the Drum. To learn more visit

Praise / Awards

  • "Tracing the roots of timba musically, socially, and historically, Vaughan has created a fascinating study of present-day Cuba that will be of value to those interested in not only ethnomusicology but also anthropology, sociology, Caribbean studies, and Cuban culture in general." 
    —L.E. Shaw, Choice
  • "Rebel Dance, Renegade Stance Timba, Music and Black Identity in Cuba by Umi Vaughan is a welcomed and important contribution to the fields of Anthropology, Cuban Studies, Caribbean Studies, African Diaspora Studies, and Performance Studies. Through a focus on timba, the goal of the book is to recount “social crisis and transformation and the role of music/dance as a mirror, medium for, and an active element in the creation of national culture” (1). The key contribution of this text is, through the use of ethnographic field notes and first-person reflections, that the author is able to develop an argument that places Cuban culture in conversation with global diasporic cultures. The author does an excellent job of capturing how movements of the people, ideas and sounds are formative in Afro-descendent identity politics throughout the region, on the African continent and beyond."
  • "One of the strengths of this dynamic book is Vaughan’s depiction of himself as part of the landscape he explored while in Cuba, revealing tensions which could otherwise have passed unnoticed."
    --New West Indian Guide

Look Inside

Product Details

  • 218 pages.
  • 25 B&W photographs.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2012
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-02869-6

  • PDF: Adobe Digital Editions e-book (DRM Protected)

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  • Cuba, Afro-Cuban, timba, salsa, music, performance, identity, special period