Bomba is a musical expression created in Puerto Rico
at the end of the 17th century, by
West Africans and their descendants who worked the
colonial sugar plantations along the coast of Puerto Rico.
Through fiery drum rhythms and improvised dance, the cane workers released
feelings of anger, resistance, and sadness about their condition.
It was at "Bailes de Bombas"
(Bomba Dances) where baptisms and marriages were celebrated,
and rebellions planned. For this reason, celebrations were only
permitted on Sundays and Feast Days. At Bailes the Bomba, the sounds of
drums called "barriles," typically made of empty codfish or rum barrels,
drew the crowd into a circle. Dancers took turns challenging the drums,
creating a dialog with their movements that the solo drummer answered. It is
said that women bomba dancers would typically dance with their skirt raised,
showing their slips, to ridicule the attire worn by plantation ladies.
We have families like the Cepedas, Ayalas, Alduen and others to thank for
preserving this precious part of our heritage for us. We thank them even
more for showing us how bailes de bomba can still be part of our lives
References and Suggested Reading
- Francisco Lopez Cruz, "La Music Folklorica de Puerto Rico", Troutman
Press 1967. [Book]
- Grupo Afro Boricua With William Cepeda, "Bombazo," Blue Jackel,
1998. (Bomba CD, high energy, authentic sound, great liner notes!) [CD]
- Los Pleneros De La 21, "Somos Boricuas/We Are Puerto Rican:
Bomba Y Plena En Nueva York," Henry Street 1996. Excellent liner notes by
Roberta L. Singer. [CD]
- Smithsonian Folkways, "Puerto Rico in Washington", 1989. [CD]
- Francisco A. Scarano, "Sugar and Slavery in Puerto Rico: The
Plantation Economy of Ponce, 1800-1850," the University of Wisconsin Press,
- Peter Manuel, "Caribbean Currents: Caribbean Music from Rumba to
Reggae," Temple University Press, 1995. [Book]
- Dufrasne-González, J. Emanuel, "Puerto Rico también tiene Tambó,"
Impreso en Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, 1994." [Book]
- Paracumbé, "Tambó." CD liner notes, excellent source
of information on the bomba of Southern Puerto Rico. [CD]
- See References and Resources
for where to find these treasures and additional suggested reading.