GRADE: 3-5
SUBJECT: Music, Culture
DISCIPLINE: Music General


In this lesson, students will learn the song “Tumba”, featured on the soundtrack to the award winning feature film A Tuba to Cuba. Students will learn about the background of the song in connection to Cuban and New Orleans jazz. Students will examine traditional Cuban and jazz instruments and clap along with “Tumba” on beats 2, 3, and 4.



  • Identify Cuban and jazz instruments used in the song “Tumba”.
  • Count beats in a measure.
  • Apply the unique and special rhythms of a song.
  • Clap along with “Tumba” on beats 2, 3, and 4.



National Core Arts Standards

MU:Cr1.1.3b Generate musical ideas (such as rhythms and melodies) within a given tonality and/or meter.
MU:Cr1.1.4b Generate musical ideas (such as rhythms, melodies, and simple accompaniment patterns) within related tonalities (such as major and minor) and meters.
MU:Cr1.1.5b Generate musical ideas (such as rhythms, melodies, and accompaniment patterns) within specific related tonalities, meters, and simple chord changes.

Common Core State Standards

ELA-LITERACY.RI.3.3 Describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect.
ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.3 Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.
ELA-LITERACY.RI.5.3 Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.



Teachers should review the media resources in the lesson, as well as listen to the Tuba to Cuba Soundtrack from the film A Tuba to Cuba. Teachers should consider times to play music from the soundtrack throughout the day in order to familiarize students with the songs (e.g., during independent work time, arrival, dismissal).





  1. Play the song “Tumba” by Preservation Hall Jazz Band from the soundtrack to A Tuba to Cuba and have students listen. Replay the song and ask: What do you notice about the song? What instruments do you hear? Where would you hear this song or similar rhythms? If you close your eyes, what do you visualize?


  1. Tell students the song is Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s original piece “Tumba”. Explain to students that the band performs this song in the documentary A Tuba to Cuba, during a visit to Cuba. There they learned about the connection between jazz and Cuban heritage. Describe how Cuban music and New Orleans jazz use a variety of instruments like the tuba, drums, saxophone, trombone, trumpet, etc. to create Afro-Cuban rhythmic traditions.


  1. Describe to students the importance of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band visiting Cuba, as it offered more insight into the roots of jazz history and culture, passed down from generation to generation, tracing back to African ancestry and the civil rights era. The Cuban community celebrates their own unique style of jazz, specific to their heritage and African ancestry. 


  1. Explain to students that jazz is a type of music that has been passed down from generation to generation, honoring tradition and family and cultural values, and is a very important part of musical culture in New Orleans and Cuban communities. Play “Tumba” again and ask: What do you visualize as you listen? How might you represent the feelings of this song with dance or instruments?



  1. Tell students the song is in 4/4 time. Many popular songs are in 4/4 time. Demonstrate for students how to clap on all four beats of the measure.


  1. The intro to “Tumba” starts with claps 2, 3, and 4. Have students relisten to the intro of the song and model the claps on beats 2, 3, and 4. Now have students mimic the hand claps. Optional advanced techniques:
    • Bamboula Beat – some students can choose to hold the bamboula rhythm. In “Tumba” the bamboula rhythm is demonstrated on the bass drum, but students can observe Sunpie Barnes demonstrating the Bamboula Rhythm using claves.
    • Call and Response – if students are in an instrumental course or bring their own instrument they can engage in the horn call and response section (timestamp). 

Model for students how to repeat a rhythm and beat using an instrument, voice, or body percussion. Provide time for students to work in groups to practice following along with the song, clapping, snapping, drumming, or using body percussion or claves to mimic the steady beat of the song. 


  1. Provide time for students to gather and organize materials. As students practice using their bodies or instruments, continue to play the song aloud for students to listen to as they work in small groups. Once students have practiced in small groups, provide time for practice as a whole group. 



  1. Perform along with the song using body percussion or instruments. Students can use claves or their bodies to mimic the Cuban and jazz instruments used in the song. Students may sing, dance, or use their bodies as percussion to represent the rhythm and beat of the song. Encourage students to represent the feelings the song gives them. This representation may include improvised movement to the rhythm of the song. 


  1. Assess students’ knowledge of 4/4 time and counting beats in a measure by observing the ensemble performance of “Tumba”. Engage students in a follow-up discussion by asking. Ask: How can you identify the rhythm or beat of a song? How do Cuban and jazz music represent and celebrate heritage and African ancestry?



Used with permission. Portions of this work are based on the National Core Arts Standards Copyright © 2015 National Coalition for Core Arts Standards/All Rights Reserved – Rights Administered by SEADAE.

© Copyright 2010. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers. All rights reserved.

Amanda Stewart, Digital Curriculum Developer
Mark Braud, Music Artist Liaison
JoDee Scissors, Content Producer



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