As we were all moving with the punteado, we were told that we always had to “bring our swag” with us. “Put your hands on your hips, always carry your chin high!” we were told by the maestras, as they danced and did the saludos towards the drums with a very serious expression, to me it was the graphic definition of pride. I love how they communicated with us in a similar way that I do back home: Sometimes there are no words to describe a step to take, so we use the rhythm of what the step sounds like to explain it:
Listen to the drums! Takatakata Tukutukutu if they drummed closer to the center of the drums, you could very clearly hear the tukutú , lower pitch, clearer. But if they hit the drum on the outer area, the takata was the dominant. Watching the maestras respond to these different pitches was like seeing them call the drum and respond to it’s rhythm, or the other way around. There was a moment where you weren’t exactly sure who was singing and who was responding. And this ended up translating onto the music.
I had a friend from Puerto Rico who came to visit, his mother is form there and we grew up listening to this music on the weekends. He commented something that immediately after the maestras said: “Do you realize that the call – and respond song they’re singing become another instrument of it’s own? As if the calling was a chord or a takata that the drum is playing? – At first I thought, of course! The voice is another instrument (I always tell myself that since I sing but don’t play other instruments and I feel strange about it). But then when the meastras commented that now they were going to sing a phrase and we would have to answer the first part:
– “Heey Mamá! Se quema la hacienda mamá” – Heyyy Mamá! – And we all responded in chorus, I realized that without our voices, the dance and the music just wasn’t the same. We were told that in bomba, there is always this kind of response. And we all sang it together: At this point there was almost none who wasn’t participating! Even people from outside would take a peek once in a while. I have always been drawn to the act of being part of a larger chorus, because only then you feel that your vibrations coming from your lips are joining something larger than your space… We learned that Juba is an ancestral dance, and that it is danced with family members.