Proyecto Cimarron is a Puerto Rican bomba performance group based in New Haven, CT. The members were brought together by their love of Afro-Latino culture, a shared commitment to preserving and sharing bomba rhythms, and utilizing bomba as a gateway for advancing social justice.
Puerto Rican bomba is a traditional dance and music style which evolved in the island during the island's history of African slavery while under Spanish rule over 400 years ago. For the enslaved and their ancestors in the sugar plantations, bomba was a source of spiritual expression, a clandestine medium of expression through which enslaved Africans could share future plans of insurrections, mark events and momentarily forget their oppression and feel the freedom of expression using their instruments: their voices, their drums, maracas, cua and the dancers' piquetes (improvised dance steps). Once found mainly in coastal towns, bomba can now be seen and heard everywhere in Puerto Rico and the diaspora outside of the island. Bomba remains rooted in resistance and is often used as a cultural means to fight for racial justice and social justice. It was omnipresent during the successful peaceful protests to close the US Naval base in the island of Vieques; in the protests for Black Lives Matter and racial justice and in the recent historic and peaceful uprising to remove the former disgraced Governor Ricardo Rosselló from his post as the island's political leader.
At a "bombazo" dancers, percussionsists and singers get together to celebrate, protest and/or be in commmunity. Three instruments are needed for a bombazo: the drums called barriles or bombas, the cua (sticks) and the maraca. The barril "primo" is the higher-pitched drum that marks the dancer's steps, the "buleador" or "segundo" are the lower-pitched drums which keep a steady beat in tandem with the cua and maraca. Not to be forgotten are the lead singer and the "coro" or choir who sing in a call-and-response style.
Every bombazo is a unique experience, that will never again be re-created. That is because in Puerto Rican bomba, it is the dancer who creates his/her own interpretation of the song via the improvised steps ("piquetes") which must be closely followed by the primo drummer. In bomba, it is the drummer who follows the dancer, not the other way around. When the dancer steps into the "batey" (dance circle), the dancer bows and acknowledges the primo drummer, then challenges the primo drummer by unexpectedly changing piquete steps and tempo and as the primo stays in lock-step, the two then create a unique interpretation of the song. At the end, the dancer respectfully bows in appreciation of the primo, and a new dancer steps in to create a new "conversation" and interpretation with the primo drummer.
There are six primary rhythms of Puerto Rican bomba: the Sica, Yuba, Cuembe, Seis Corrido, Holandes and Corve. Each rhythm has its own derivatives, resulting in a total of 16 Bomba rhythms.