History of Bomba
The origins of the Bomba music and dance date back to 16th-century Africa and the advent of the slave trade. Bomba became an important means of communicating the political and social conditions of these colonial times, and served as a form of cultural resistance for those in bondage. Bomba adapted again with the emancipation of slaves in Puerto Rico in 1873. For generations now bomba has remained central to community, with the drum acting as an instrument of social and artistic expression and entertainment and the lyrics often speaking to community sentiment and/or social conditions of the day. More recently, bomba’s resilient spirit has become more pronounced in the face of Puerto Rico’s economic crisis and the vast devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017. During the height of the Hurricane Maria crisis, “bombazos” were held throughout the island, bringing together community residents to dance, sing and provide temporary respite from the crisis facing the island and its residents.
A recent article by the New York Times describes the bomba as follows:
“This playful exchange between dancers, singers and drummers is the rhythmic backbone of Afro-Boricuas here. Developed in the 17th century, when the Spanish were still in control, it is one of the oldest musical traditions on the island. Some of its earliest practitioners were West Africans working on sugar plantations; their bomba dances offered a means of social connection and catharsis, and according to the ethnomusicologist Salvador E. Ferreras, sometimes helped to disguise revolts”.
The core components of bomba are drumming, singing and dance. Bomba is comprised of three or more backup singers and a lead singer. The singing has a dynamic similar to that of the "Son" where the lead singer sings a chorus and the others respond, and in between choruses the lead singer will improvise a verse. The traditional drums used in bomba are called barriles, since they have long been built from the wood of barrels. The high pitch drum is called "subidor" (riser) or "primo" (first), and the low pitch drums are called "buleador" or "segundo" (second). No less important are the "Cuás" - two wooden sticks banged on a wooden surface, and a large Maraca that keeps time. Unlike other dance and percussion forms where the dancer follows the drummer, in bomba the primo follows the dancer. The other drummers or buleadores keep the rhythm, while the singer is joined by a chorus in a "call and response" pattern of singing.. The theme of most bomba songs is everyday life and activity.
Meet The Team
Kevin R Diaz
Founder and Executive Director of Movimiento Cultural
Kevin R. Diaz - Founder and Director of Movimiento Cultural Afro-Continental (MCAC), Inc. Kevin was the former director and event coordinator of the FLECHAS, Inc. a non-profit organization from 1976 to 2012. FLECHAS help a three day weekend festival at New Haven Long Wharf with live music, arts and crafts, food vendors and amusement rides which generated over a hundred thousand dollars in economic activity to the area. During that time Kevin was also the artistic director for a folkloric ensemble called Folclorico Bohio Dance Troupe, a Bomba dance and music group with 25-30 young students and adults presenting workshops and performing throughout the tri-state area in festivals and civic events. Kevin has a long history and community connection with the New Haven, and has served in various leadership capacities such as former alder for the 15th Ward. Since 2014, he has served as a board of police commissioner for New Haven. Kevin has collaborated with many master artists in public presentations and workshops and has received various awards and recognitions by local civic organizations. Kevin has EMBA/MPA from the University of New Haven and is currently employed by the State Judicial Regional Children’s Probate Court for the past 15 years
Dancer and Singer
Jazmine was born in Guayama, Puerto Rico and lived there until she was 7 years old. She then relocated to Boston MA. At age 9, she began to dance the bomba. She moved to New Haven in 2004 and has since graduated from Southern Connecticut State University with a degree in Psychology and Medical Spanish. Her professional goals are to use her degree to support the Latine community. Jazmine is also the mother of a beautiful baby girl, who can sometimes be seen moving to the captivating rhythm of the bomba drum
Dance Instructor and Performer
Jessica is a third generation family member of bomba practitioners from Guayama, Puerto Rico. Her grandfather is Don Miguel Flores, a renowned bomba dancer who continues to participate in events throughout the island at his ninety plus years of age. Jessica’s father, “Jose Ñeco Flores” is also a prominent bomba dancer and composer who accompanies many bomba groups and is also founder of his own group called “Grupo Tradicion”. Jessica was raised in New Haven, and started dancing bomba at the young age of 10 with FLECHAS. She relocated to Puerto Rico in 2010, and was very active in bomba events mastering all bomba rhythms. Jessica returned to Connecticut in 2016, and has been with MCAC since then.
Alex is from the town of Loiza, Puerto Rico. He is one of the principal percussionists in Movimiento Cultural. He has been drumming from a very early age, having taken classes with Master drummer Tico Fuentes. He was also influenced by watching the performances of the Ayala brothers. He has continued his passion into performing for Movimiento Cultural. Sometimes he even dances! He has distinguished himself with advanced knowledge of the various Bomba rhythms. Alex has been living in New Haven for five years.