We were at the bipartisan Bush Clinton Playground in Red Hook this morning,
joining a group of day campers from the Dodge YMCA in downtown Brooklyn for a terrific performance by BambaYo, the outstanding Afro-Puerto Rican teen dance/singing/percussion group founded in the Bronx by Jose Ortiz. As BombaYo's website says,
Bomba was developed in Puerto Rico over 300 years ago by enslaved Africans from parts of West Africa and the Kongo region and also includes influences from the Spanish colonizers and native Taino people. Bomba is more of an experience than a show. It's where singing, dancing and drumming come together in a community celebration of life. Boricuas on the island and stateside are reviving this tradition and in turn uncovering part of their cultural heritage.
BombaYo emerges from the streets and schoolyards of the Bronx, where salsa and hip hop were born. Under the direction of Jose L. Ortiz aka Dr. Drum and Melinda Gonzalez, this group of teens brings youthful energy to a centuries old Afro Puerto Rican music and dance tradition. BombaYo starts from within. At the core is a connection to the soul, where drum and dance become one. African inspired call and response singing complete the synergy. Beyond the appeal of a performance, they create an inviting and engaging experience. In the spirit of Sankofa, BombaYo draws from the bomba tradition to enrich their lives and embrace their cultural legacy.
It was more than just a performance for the kids. It was an experience. For us adults, too.
Exactly forty years ago, in July 1960, we were a little 9yo tourist hearing this kind of music for the first time on the streets of Old San Juan. Our incessant playing (with our younger bro) of the bongos and maracas we made our parents buy us eventually drove our neighbors crazy the rest of the summer after we returned from Puerto Rico to our bungalow on Rockaway Beach.
The beats and music and movements were infectious.
One little kid got up spontaneously and made some moves.
Then one friend joined him, then another.
Eventually more joined in.
Finally everyone got into the act.
We had to get going to downtown Brooklyn, but for all we know, the dancing hasn't stopped yet.
Here's a video of Dr. Drum and Bomba y Plena at Brook Park in the South Bronx over Memorial Day weekend.
And here's Jose Ortiz, aka Dr. Drum, and BombaYo, presented with the Yin Yang award in recognition of his inspiration, passion and daring to go beyond by R.Evolución Latina, a collective of artists and activists committed to empowering the artistic community in order to inspire growth within the Latino Community through collaboration, productions, and educational support programs.
We were very impressed.