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Not just “Mambo Number 5”: All the best mambos to dance to

Mambo music is a genre that emerged in the 1930s and 1940s in Cuba and quickly became popular throughout Latin America and the United States. The style is characterized by its infectious rhythm and danceable beat, which has made it a favorite of dancers around the world.

It has also proven to be a template that several popular musicians have responded to. Mambo has been incorporated into rock, jazz, and pop music over the last fifty years, often leading to chart-topping hits and boundary-pushing albums. 

Some are less big than others, so we thought it best to comb through and pick out some of the absolute best examples.

Mambo No. 5

One of the most iconic mambo songs of all time is “Mambo No. 5” by Lou Bega. “Mambo No. 5” was released in 1999 and quickly became a worldwide hit. The song is based on the 1950s instrumental “Mambo No. 5” by Perez Prado, but Lou Bega added lyrics and a new melody to create a modern pop hit. 

He also adapted the look (white suit, fedora) and title of the mambo era to promote his album, which was appropriately titled A Little Bit of Mambo. The song features a catchy horn riff and a memorable chorus, which helped it to become one of the most successful singles of the 1990s. 

It peaked at number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, and led to several different covers and spinoffs. It was even parodied on an episode of The Office years later!

Mambo crossover hits

Another classic mambo track is “Mambo Italiano” by Rosemary Clooney, which was released in 1954. The song combines traditional Italian music with mambo rhythms, creating a unique sound that became popular with both Italian-American and Latino audiences. The song features a fast-paced beat and a catchy chorus that is still popular today. It remains one of Clooney’s most enduring hits.

Another iconic mambo song is “Oye Como Va” by Tito Puente, which was released in 1963. The song is based on a cha-cha rhythm, but features elements of mambo, salsa, and other Latin American styles. The song features a memorable riff and catchy lyrics, which helped to make it one of the most recognizable songs in Latin American music.

It later achieved classic status when it was covered by the rock band Santana for their 1970 album Abraxas. Santana’s version spiced up the main riff with an electric guitar, and the result was one of the best and most iconic mambo fusions of all time. This cover peaked at 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and remains a live staple for the band.

The King of Mambo

Other amazing mambo tracks include “Mambo Jambo” by Perez Prado, “El Mambo” by Machito, “Mambo Inn” by Tito Puente, and “Mambo Diablo” by Tito Puente. Each of these songs features a unique style and sound, but all share the infectious rhythm that defines mambo music.

You may notice one name repeatedly pop up in these recommendations: Tito Puente. The Cuban musician was dubbed “The King of Mambo” for a reason; his musical skill and his knack for writing catchy, easily digestible hooks made him the face of the genre for several decades. When it came time to shine a spotlight on the genre with the 1992 film The Mambo Kings, the director made sure to include Puente in a cameo role.

Puente died in 2000, but mambo music continues to evolve and thrive, with new artists and songs emerging all the time. While “Mambo No. 5” may be the most well-known mambo song to many people, the genre offers a rich and diverse array of music that is sure to get any dancer moving. 

Whether you’re a fan of classic mambo or more contemporary styles, there’s no denying the infectious energy and joy that this music brings to people all over the world.

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