Monday, January 9, 2012

Bamboula Dance and Music - Then & Now, Part 2

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part II of a four part series of posts on the African roots, and the music & dance traditions of the Bamboula in the Caribbean, and in the United States.

Part II of this series focuses on descriptions of the Bamboula dance in the Caribbean, and features several videos of the Bomba, which is considered to be similar to the Bamboula.

Part I of this series provides an overview of the Bamboula, and features several videos of dance traditions from a few African ethnic groups in West Africa, the region from which most Black people who were enslaved in the Caribbean and the Americas came.
Click for Part 1 of this series.

Part III of this series focuses on the Bamboula in the United States, features a 19th century sound file entitled "Bamboula", features selected videos of contemporary gatherings in Congo Square in New Orleans, Louisiana. Click for Part 3 of this series.

Part IV focuses on showcasing selected videos of music that was inspired by the Bamboula and/or Congo Square. Click for Part 4 of this series.

These posts are presented for historical, folkloric, educational, and aesthetic purposes.

Part II

"Drums and heartbeats by Ella Laloba

The bamboula a dance, and music and drumming tradition, with African origins, is cousin to the "bomba,” a folkloric tradition, which still thrives in Puerto Rico. Brought to the Caribbean by enslaved Africans, the bamboula is a dramatic dance of rebellion and determination.

Versions have survived in Guadeloupe, St. Lucia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Marked by swaying hips, trembling of the body and dramatic drum accents, the bamboula dance can go on for hours, with audience members joining in.
A traditional heartbeat played on the drum speeds up and inspires the dancers’ movements, which accelerate and climax in response to the drums.

Chenzira Kahina, managing director of Per Ankh Institute in St. Croix in the Virgin Islands dances the bamboula at cultural events and teaches it too. She says it’s a powerful dance, where the dancers and drummers are both animated, and "the dancers are fully engaged with feet, shoulders, waist, hips and breasts."
From "Candombe, African Nations, and the Africanity of Uruguay" by Tomas Olivene Chirimini in African Roots/American Cultures: Africa In The Creation Of The Americas (Shiela S. Walker, ed.; London, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.,2001; p. 262)
"The bamboula, based on a syncopated 2/4 beat, was similar to the calenda, the choreography typically picking up speed toward the end of the song. A group of women dancers circled around the musicians and around one or more male solo dancers, who sometimes executed athltic flips. The dancer's ankle bells provided additional layers of rhythmic complexity.

The chica or congo was also performed in much of African America. The basic moves, characterized by early chroniclers as erotic, were made with the shoulders, hips, and arms, while the rest of the body remained immobile evidencing the bodily isolation characteristic of much Central African and related African Diaspora dance styles. The dance continued to be dance out of the view of whites in th same way that so many other African cultural expressions prohibited by white ecclesastical and political authorities continued to exist in various guises. The semba or zamba was an evolution of the calenda, bambula, and chica, with a slower rhythm and cadence. Sembam in Kimbunda, means navel, referring to the coming together of navels in the pelvic thrust."
Also, read the comments in Part 1 of this series about the Bamboula and the Chica which are quoted from Lynne Fauley Emery's book Black Dance from 1619 to Today.
Similar to what I wrote in the first post of this series, if researchers believe that the Bamboula dance might have be similar to the Bomba or other Caribbean (and South American) folk dances, wouldn't it make sense to familiarize ourselves with those dances? The few videos below are interesting and-for me-aesthetically pleasing examples of what the Bamboula dance might have been like.

[Videos in this series of posts are numbered in consecutive order throughout the entire series. No order of preference is given to these selected videos.]

Video Example #5: BOMBA (Puerto Rico)

Uploaded by disk0ne on Jun 25, 2007
A commentater on this video's viewer comment thread wrote that this clip was filmed in 1957.

Video Example #6: Bomba in Loiza, Puerto Rico #1 (Puerto Rico)

Uploaded by gyenyamesankofa on Aug 9, 2008

This is one of several videos that I will be posting from my trip to Puerto Rico in July 2008.

This clip features Bomba drummers and dancers at Raul Ayala's house in Loiza, during La Fiesta de Santiago Apostol.

Video Example #7: JAM YARD-Brukkins Dance Falmouth Jamaica March 2011 [Jamaica]

Uploaded by JAMYARDVIDEOS on Apr 15, 2011

This Dance is called Brukkin- its a traditional folk Dance,check out the musical instrument,and movements of the Dancers.
JAM YARD sharing a piece of our Jamaican culture with u.

Video Example #8: Batuque de Umbigada Revelando São Paulo [Brazil]

Nascimento Ferr, Uploaded on Sep 20, 2009

For more information on these dances and for more examples of Caribbean folk dances, click this link to a page of my Cocojams website:

Thanks for reading this post!

Your comments are welcome.


  1. Of interest here for you - within Puerto Rican bomba, there are included a number of distinct rhythm/song/dance forms, all with their own names and the majority of which are shared with other cultures across Afro-America - particularly territories influenced by the French slave trade such as Haiti, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Trinidad, St Lucia, Eastern Cuba, and New Orleans. In the first above clip, from Ponce, PR, is an example of the son de bomba "Leró", and the second video from Loiza is of a rhythm called "rulé". To this day in Puerto Rico the terms calindá (kalenda), sicá (chica), yubá (djouba), cunyá (Kounjaille), and bambula/bambulaé (bamboula) among many others are alive and well, as designations for specific sub-styles of bomba. Thank you for posting these clips from PR in this context. Due to the influence of colonized mindsets, people tend to classify PR as an essentially "Hispanic" country, yet of course history, culture, and lineage tie the island strongly to Africa, its non-Hispanic West Indian neighbors, and the broader Afro-Atlantic...

    1. Thank you, cunyajelemue for sharing that information.

      I appreciate it!