February 23, 2008

Exploring Puerto Rico's African Heritage, Part 4: Bomba

Bomba is a dance created by African slaves in Loíza, although it is danced all over the island, especially in the West (like Mayagüez) and South (like Ponce). It is a beautiful dance, with strong beats and irresitable movements. It also is one of the roots of Salsa and most of Puerto Rico's music.

The general outfit for both men and women is white: men white suits (or at least a white shirt) and a straw hat, women in a white shirt and skirt (usually). Colors can be added to this but the white is expected. The pivotal part of the outfit is the woman's skirt, which must have multiple thick layers in order to create the desired effect.

The dancers in turn are accompanied by a variety of musicians. Percussion is crucial. Usually it's a trio of barriles, large drums, along with a single maraca and other instruments. There are also singers, either a soloist or a group (or both). Click

Bomba is, overall, a dialogue between the musicians and the dancer(s). With her skirt (or possibly a shawl or scarf), the dancer directs the percussion. I can't think of any way to describe this but with videos.

First off, here is a short video with one of the most important figures in Bomba today, Tata Cepeda. Her family has been a huge part in the survival and growth of Bomba. This doesn't really show off the "dialogue" per se, since I'm pretty sure it's choreographed, but it is a tribute to her talents as well as an amazing dance.

This other video is longer and not as fast, but if you are still interested I highly recommend it. It takes a moment to get ready, but the dancing is really interesting.

I hope somehow I've managed to share my affection for this dancing with you... it's kind of hard to express the feeling while watching it. Still...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thankyou very much. That is beautiful. I teach our boys drumming and percussion here 20 miles north of Noglaes Sonora, here in Tumacacori AZ, USA at the Global Community Communications Alliance.
If you can lead me toward any Notation I'm looking for the rhythms of Bomba. The boys and me plan to perform Richie Valenzuela's 'La BAmba' and to jam out the end with some real traditional drumming. Thank you for your sharing, It is beautiful. Any idea how I could contact some of the drummers from the 2nd and slower song in video?
Do you think Bomba and Bembe from Africa correlate? Thank you much. GOd bless your life and work. DeAsUnJa