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BOMBA Afro-Puerto Rican Treasure
The bomba is the most popular music and dance style found on the island of Puerto Rico. The style has strong African roots and it flourished among the black slaves working in the sugar cane plantations in the 18th century, and in particular in coastal towns such as Loiza Aldea. Traditionally the rhythm is performed using bomba drums; barrell shaped hand drums similar to the Cuban conga drums but slightly shorter, cua; a pair of sticks on the side of a drum or log drum, and a single maraca.

This rhythm was incorporated into the conjunto or band set up in the early 1950s by Rafael Cortijo. In this format the congas have substituted the traditional bomba drums, the cuá pattern is played on a woodblock or side of a drum, a cowbell pattern played by the timbal player has been added, and the Puerto Rican scraper known as güicharo is often incorporated. In its traditional form the rhythm is performed with up to three bomba drums. Two play supporting patterns; the burleador and seguidora, while the highest or requinto improvises throughout. The cuá plays a one bar pattern, while the maraca marks the basic pulse. The performance also incorporates dancers and singers. Performance arrangement: commence with burleador, followed by seguidora, cua, maraca and finally the requinto.

hand drum key: O= Open Tone   P=Palm   F=Fingers   M=Muffled Tone   S=Slap









Requinto: 'Solo'

Specially recommended recordings featuring bomba are:
Puerto Rican & Cuban Musical Expression In New York (New World RecordsNW244-2)

Modesto Cepeda 
Raices De Bomba Y Plena (MCB 9504)

Rafael Cortijo 
Cortijo Y Kako Y Sus Tambores (Ansonia 1477) 
Cortijo Y Su Combo (Seeco Tropical STR 90529)

Kako Y Su Orquesta  (TR 00900 LP)

Los Pleneros De La 21 & Conjunto Melodia
Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico Mi Tierra Natal (Shanachie 5001)

Mon Rivera & Willie Colon
There Goes The Neighborhood  (Vaya VS-42)

Carlos 'Patato' Valdez
Understanding Latin Rhythms Vol.1  (LPV 337 LP)

© Alex Pertout. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without prior written permission from the author. This article was first published in Drumscene magazine.

© Alex Pertout. All Rights Reserved.