Cumbia originated from the Caribbean coast of eastern Colombia, with folkloric variants in Panama from where it spread gaining particular popularity in Mexico, Argentina, and the Andean region.
Cumbia began as a courtship dance practiced among the African slave population that was later mixed with European instruments and musical characteristics.
Cumbia is very popular in the Andean region and the Southern Cone and was until the early 1980s more popular in these regions than the salsa.
It is often asserted that Cumbia is a variant of Guinean cumbé music. However, it should be noted that the rhythm of Cumbia can be found in music of Yoruba (more specifically, the rhythm is associated with the god Obatala), and in other musical traditions across West Africa.
Cumbia started in the northern coast of South America, what is now Colombia and Panama, mainly in or around Cartagena during the period of Spanish colonization. Spain used its ports to import African slaves, who tried to preserve their musical traditions and also turned the drumming and dances into a courtship ritual. Cumbia was mainly performed with just drums and claves.