Puerto Rico’s vibrant and unique African tradition, bomba, is expressive and rhythmic, driven by the heart and soul of the drummers and dancers who perform it. Bomba was born when a diverse group of Africans came over as slaves and were forced to work the sugar plantations in Puerto Rico during the 17th century. The percussive music is played by hand on barrel-shaped drums covered with tightly stretched animal skins. There is a large drum (barril-Primo) and a smaller drum called a subidor. The purest African version of bomba is thought to have come from the northeastern coastal town of Loíza Aldea.
Bomba exists as a deep communication between the dancer and the drummer, who challenge themselves to rhythmic duels. The beat of bomba extends beyond the music; it brings communities together and inspires young people to learn the history of an important tradition. Hijos de Agüeybaná are an exciting band who appreciate and honor the legacy of bomba and carry that sound to a higher level on their new album, Agua del Sol, out September 25th on Tumi Music. Drummer, singer, dancer and lyricist, Otoqui Reyes says there is more to bomba than drumming and dancing.
“Bomba is what you live, what you see, your actual life. It’s about what you feel at the moment.” – Otoqui Reyes
Hijos de Agüeybaná is directed by Otoqui Reyes and consists of eight artists, dedicated to preserving their Afro-Caribbean roots. They have over ten years of experience performing and offering workshops and courses on the historical and cultural significance of bomba. Joining Otoqui in the band is his father and mentor, Ángel Luis Reyes, who is committed to creating art and music out of Puerto Rico’s rich culture. While there are elements of jazz and salsa on Agua del Sol, the drums and voices carry this record and prove that the tradition of bomba is being honored and carried into a new era.