Segunda Quimbamba

Bomba

Brought to Puerto Rico by enslaved Africans, it’s earliest, documented manifestations on the island go back to the mid-1600s but it is believed to have been practiced at least two generations before.

The drums are Bomba, barriles de bomba, have similar, if not identical, counterparts in other islands of the Caribbean. The songs of Bomba are influenced by the languages and inflections of other islands too like the Dutch, French and English colonies in the Caribbean. And as with everything in the Caribbean, the influence of Haiti, after the Haitian Revolution, is present.

During slavery Bomba was a source of respite, release, affirmation, and at times, conspiracy for escape from the plantations that created the economic largesse of slaveholders and the center of violence and exploitation of enslaved Africans. Because of its Blackness, Bomba was prohibited, criminalized, marginalized and then rescued from erasure by a number of families throughout the island.

Bomba’s entry into the commercialized recording industry of the 20th Century lagged behind that of its drum-cousin, Plena. Its earliest recordings were likely in the first third of the 1900s and in New York City. But its breakout popular appeal on record and on television was spearheaded by Rafael Cortijo’s Cortijo y Su Combo with his famous lead singer, Ismael Rivera.