While watching the excellent documentary series Explained on Netflix, I came across an episode about hurricanes. Within this there was a description of how climate change was affecting coastal communities in Puerto Rico and how their heritage was being lost to climate change. Among the losses feared in the near future was the home ground for Bomba music. This music is both a traditional Puerto Rican drum consisting of a barrel with a goatskin head. and a genre of Puerto Rican dance accompanied by drums and other percussion also : a song sung by a soloist and chorus to accompany a bomba drum. Its origins are rooted in the island’s history of African slavery but today has evolved into a community expression of Puerto Rican culture and is inextricably linked with protest culture in the modern world.
A1 Coje Pa’ La Cola
A2 Chinito Boogaloo
A3 Sorongo (Ritmo Sorongo)
A5 Boogaloo Pa Los Pollos
B1 Sacame De Aqui Written-By – Luis Delgado*
B2 Mini Falda
B3 Que Te Lleven Las Olas
B4 Tiempo De Amor
B5 El Prestamista
B6 Que Se Pare La Bola
Sorongo, the title track is so exciting. The lyrics are simple and reflect a common question – Dimme Sorongo dimme Sorongo, que es lo que el blanco tiene de negro? Which translates as tell me Sorongo, what is white about Black men? The style of drumming as well as the infectious piano lends itself beautifully to bomba dancing, which can be viewed in the video below. It is said that you can feel Bomba music in your soul.
The second song I wish to highlight is Sacame de Aquí which means get me out of here. This is perhaps my favourite song on the album. It is slow and has some of the most touching lyrics I have heard. I shared it with my ex who is fluent in Spanish, as well as three other languages (at least) who was equally moved by it. I listened to this most recently on a train fleeing from Bristol, back to Birmingham, having been chased away by the most wicked cold. The song was highly apposite. The pain felt by Rafael Cortijo is so plain and jarring to me. This track went straight through me and remains as affecting as on my first listen. My Spanish is still good enough to be able to translate the lyrics in my head:
Hay veces en la vida
Que es impossible seguir juntos
Hay cosas en la vida
Que no tienen solucion
Viviendo de la nada
Que nada, nada, nada sacará
Overall this is one of the key albums of the Bomba genre, and a seminal one at that. Although Bomba music has been around for 400 years, it has only been recorded recently. This 1968 album is an excellent place to start and can be found on Spotify. It has invigorated and moved me in many ways over the last few weeks. I recommend it highly.
See below an excellent explanation of the genre: