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Trova was one of the earliest popular song traditions to originate in Cuba, emerging around the late 1800s and remaining popular through the first half of the 20th century. The style's practitioners, called trovadores, lived very much like medieval troubadours, traveling the country and supporting themselves with the meager monetary rewards that came from performing. Trova music actually encompassed a variety of native Cuban song forms and rhythms, including the guaracha, the punto, the habanera, the rumba, the son, the clave, and the Latin American bolero, as well as a melodic influence from European opera. These songs were initially performed with guitar (and, usually, clavé) accompaniment and one or two vocalists, a format which became popular in Santiago and other eastern towns. Income-seeking trovadores found their way to Havana and worked as street performers, spreading the style to audiences who began to think of it as the sound of their nation. The four most important early trovadores were Sindo Garay, Rosendo Ruiz [Suarez], Alberto Villalon [Morales], and Manuel Corona [Raimundo]. These and other trova performers, like Maria Teresa Vera, made their first recordings during the 1910s, both in Havana and New York City. During the '20s, the son form became wildly popular and tended to dominate the other, more traditional components of trova; it provided a great deal of exposure for most of the original trova singers and gave rise to the popular sexteto group format. However, six-member bands cost more to book, which led to a return to trova's early trio format ("trio" referring more to the three essential parts of the song -- two voices and guitar accompaniment -- than the specific number of group members, which varied according to whether the vocalists could play guitar or percussion while singing). However, these arrangements were more elaborate, often including a second guitar and extra percussion (the latter to emphasize the music's increasing dance orientation). The '30s brought an unprecedented level of popularity for Cuban music, with the crossover success of "The Peanut Vendor" ("El Manisero") in the U.S. and the bolero song form in Mexico, and while traditional trova compositions were still very much in evidence, new musical innovations and commercial considerations contributed to trova's gradual decline and near-disappearance over the next two decades. However, Castro's government encouraged the revival of traditional Cuban music, subsidizing the creation of an ambitious, folk-based form known as nueva trova, which drew heavily from trova while updating and expanding its sensibilities.
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