To close out our free summer concert series, the CHS is pleased to present Bomba Ashe, featuring Puerto Rican bomba and plena music and dance. Part of the renowned musical dynasty La Familia Cepeda, legendary dancer Roberto Cepeda has carried on the family’s bomba y plena traditions since he was five years old. Dedicated to the teaching and preservation of African-based music from Cuba and Puerto Rico, Roberto leads the group and also sings, dances, and plays drums including the panderos of plena and the barriles of bomba. Bomba Ashé includes Roberto’s wife Gloria Lopez, an accomplished bomba dancer herself, and many of the most experienced bomba y plena musicians in the Northeast.
The concert will take place on the beautiful CHS lawns at 1 Elizabeth St., Hartford. Grounds are open for seating and picnicking from 5 PM, and the music begins at 6 PM. All of the CHS outdoor concerts are free and open to the public. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs and food, or pick up a delicious meal or treats from the Brazilian Gula Grill food truck, which will be on site from 5:00 – 7:30!
This concert is the third in the 2018 season of the Connecticut Historical Society’s outdoor concert series on summer third Thursdays with generous support from the Evelyn W. Preston Memorial Trust Fund, Bank of America N.A., Trustee, and the National Endowment for the Arts and the CT Office of the Arts/DECD.
For more information about the artists, please click here.
A member of the beloved and renowned Puerto Rican folklore dynasty La Familia Cepeda from Santurce on the island, legendary dancer Roberto has been carrying on the family’s bomba y plena traditions since he was five years old. As a Puerto Rican cultural leader, he is dedicated to the teaching and preservation of African-based music from Cuba and Puerto Rico. Roberto leads the group Bomba Ashé and also sings, dances, and plays a variety of drums including the panderos of plena and the barriles of bomba. Based in the US since 1965 and in Connecticut since 2016, Roberto offers master classes and workshops on drumming and dancing, presents educational programs in schools, and has performed as a soloist with leading Puerto Rican artists such as Los Pleneros de la 21 and Eddie Palmieri. Bomba Ashé includes Roberto’s wife Gloria Lopez, an accomplished bomba dancer herself, and many of the most experienced bomba y plena musicians in the Northeast.
The Puerto Rican traditional dance form known as bomba developed on the sugar cane plantations throughout the coastal areas of the island, arising as the musical expressions of enslaved Africans brought to work there from the 17th century. Connections with other colonized Africans and Caribbean groups from Haiti, Cuba, and Santo Domingo created a rich variety of percussion-driven rhythms in bomba, along with songs and dances that told stories, related histories and social values, and sometimes conveyed messages of rebellion. Traditional instruments include barrel drums, maracas, and rhythm sticks. Songs and dances are extemporaneous and creative in conversation with the drum rhythms in call and response patterns. Bomba has been constant in the musical landscape of Puerto Rico among traditional communities, accompanying community gatherings and festivals as well as public performances.
Plena functions as a “sung newspaper” for the people who moved increasingly into cities on the island after the end of slavery. There they connected with local rural residents called jibaros, as well as with Taino descendants, creating a mix of cultural influences that is reflected in the sounds and narrative lyrics of plena. Instruments are primarily the three sizes of the pandereta, a hand-held drum, and the guiro, a serrated gourd that is scraped to produce a soft background rhythm. Both bomba and plena have found new life, great popularity, and skilled practitioners in mainland Puerto Rican communities. Plena musicians can be identified by their white panama hats.