Nelly Goletti Theater Comes Alive with Bomba Music

Despite the rain and gray skies, the Nelly Goletti Theater was alive with the spirit of Caribbean music and culture. The Center of Multicultural Affairs, the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, and the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program worked together to host “Bamboula to the Bayou, with Bomba in the Mix: Drumming, Dancing, and Singing Afro-Caribbean Cultural History.” The event featured Dr. Halbert Barton from Long Island University and his band as they played traditional Bomba music and shared the history of the music and culture.

The event was open to all, forming an eclectic group of people of all different ages, cultures, professions, and areas of study. The performance began as the rhythm from the drums echoed throughout the theater. The first song performed translated to “rise up from the tomb.” After the song was performed, the history of the lyrics was explained to the audience. The song originated from slaves on the sugar cane plantations as a way of expressing themselves and releasing their emotions. Dr. Halbert Barton explained that Bomba is not only music, but a culture and movement. The group explained how Bomba music has evolved according to the needs of society to become a movement about empowering oppressed people. The music purposely starts slow then gradually speeds up to lift the spirits of the people. The whole performance is meant for high energy, high spirits, and making people feel good.

The group continued to play more songs and explained each song’s origin. Then an interactive portion started. The group explained how the drummer pays attention to the dancer and plays beats to match the dancer’s movements. Some of the musicians danced on stage and then invited people from the crowd to come join! Even professors and students were dancing in the aisles of the theater. Some children were called up on stage and taught how to use the maracas and do some traditional Bamba dancing. The rest of the audience clapped along to the rhythm and cheered the new performers on. The music lifted the spirits of everyone in the theater that day. The theater glowed with the energy from the music, singing, and dancing. By the end of the event everyone was smiling from ear to ear, and no one was remembering the rain and gray skies outside.

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