Bomba is an Afro-Puerto Rican folkloric music style developed throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries by west African slaves brought to the island by the Spanish. It is a communal activity that still thrives in its traditional centers of Loíza, Santurce, Mayagüez, Ponce, and New York City. The traditional musical style has been diffused throughout the United States following the Puerto Rican Diaspora, especially in New York, New Jersey, Chicago, California, and Florida. It also became increasingly popular in Peru, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil, and has largely influenced Afro-Latino music styles within these countries.
More than just a genre of music, it’s most defining characteristic is the encounter and creative relationship between dancers, percussionists, and singers. Dance is an integral part of the music. It is popularly described as a challenge/connection, or an art of “call and answer,” in which two or more drums follow the rhythms and moves of the dancers. The challenge requires great physical shape and usually continues until either the drummer or the dancer discontinues.
There are several styles of bomba, and the popularity of these styles varies by region. There are three basic rhythms, as well as many others that are mainly variations of these: Yubá, Sicá and Holandés. Other styles include Cuembé, Bámbula, Cocobalé, and Hoyomula.