Puerto Rico is famous for its top salsa musicians. But if you really want to get the party started on the island, you have to play some bomba.

Bomba is one of the island’s oldest music forms, combining African, indigenous Taíno and Spanish musical elements. The music is performed on booming hand drums and sung in call-and-response style.

By the 1950s, bomba had fallen out of fashion and had been relegated to folkloric dance troupes. But over the last 20 years, bomba has come back in a big way. Today, it’s thriving right here in New York City, connecting Boricuas in the diaspora to their roots.

Photo by Roxanne Scott

7 thoughts on “Bomba Returns: An Afro-Puerto Rican Music Genre Thrives In New York

  1. There’s an entire dissertation and book coming out on the Afro-Taino alliance at the birth of Bomba. Erasing the Taino elements of all Puerto Rican culture is not revolutionary or necessary in order to celebrate our powerful black roots. No binary here. There’s no competition, no oppression olympics necessary to acknowledge that Native and African People were not only on the receiving end of colonialism, but also resisted and very often in collaboration. The town of Loiza, named after Taino female chieftain Yuisa was a site of Afro-Taino alliance. The native practices and African practices came together to resist colonialism. That’s a beautiful story about our melanated ancestors resistance to European Colonialism. The maraca was used by our Taino ancestors as were a version of the Cua’s used in Bomba. There is a reason we still call the center of the Bombazo a Batey. All of these are cultural, physical and spiritual connections to our Taino ancestors still alive culturally and genetically in most if not all Puerto Rican people. To acknowledge those elements with pride in no way appropriates or diminishes the decidedly African roots of Bomba that include the core rhythms, the call and response, the style of Drum and on and on. Can we be proud of our African roots and our Indigenous roots at the same time? I believe so. In fact, today more than ever it’s time to learn from those alliances that allowed our ancestors to survive.

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