After the dance workshop many of the performers participated on a panel. Many of the performers talked about how their art, Bomba or Fandango, has influenced their life outside of practice. One of the panelist talk about her art creating a safe space for her to find her identity. Another panelist talked about how sometimes they perform themselves into “being”. The idea that as artists they sometimes get so caught up in their performance that it becomes who they are. One of my favorite moments of the panel was when the drummer from southern Puerto Rico talked about her experience being a woman. She talks about how Bomba is about the feeling of home and its origins of being played in, Casas, as oppose to being played on the street. As a women, she talks about how when she plays the drums, she wants her listeners to love what is being played as opposed to who is playing. She highlights that the drum doesn’t have a sex, so the expectations shouldn’t be applied to the artists playing the instruments. As I reflect on their answers, I realize that through music and art, our stories of our cultures and ancestors can be passed down through generations. I want to end this post with what one panelist said, “In order to explore or travel, you must travel home first. It is when she [her child] knows her Puerto Rican Culture, she can then travel the world”. As the world becomes more connected, it is important we stay grounded in our own cultures and histories. – Paolo Eleccion
Live Blog Post #1
One of the first thing I noticed when I entered was a lady wearing a beautiful red cultural skirt and going around the room with a bowl that seemed to have white sage burning and spreading it around and blessing it. After that there were a performance by Melia and Narice that were still working on and refining. The rhythm they continued to replicate was very addictive. It started getting a lot more powerful and emotional. Melia would start talking and raising her voice while having very distinct facial expressions that went with her voice. Even though I didn’t understand the language her tone of voice, volume and facial expressions really spoke out. The next event was the Bomba workshop, a participatory workshop that started off with reluctant participants at first who were shy. However things started to pick up pace as the event went further in. The rhythmic drumming and smiles on everyone around really pulled even more people in. The shouting, percussion and footsteps combined was echoing off the walls. It seemed as though ⅔ of the room occupants had joined in and with each dance step began to fully enjoy the people around them and the activity. One of the most memorable part of the workshop would have to be when they took fast paced steps back, pushing the people in the back to look for cover and move out of the way. The overall performance was so energetic, powerful and there was a sense of instant community in that moment. Seeing the same expression on everyone’s face around me was quite a relief from all the bad things happening in the world. A group of people who were mere strangers amount ago were acting together, unified through dance and song.
Live Blog Post #2
Another interesting thing I found while observing was that people from streets were getting interested as well. When I looked outside I can see passersby were wondering what all the sounds were about and so some of the them actually went in was smiling as they entered. Curiosity was shown throughout their face as they got closer to the dancers and percussionists. Seeing the same expression on everyone’s face around me was quite a relief from all the bad things happening in the world. A group of people who were mere strangers a moment ago were collectively uniting together through dance and song. It was very heartwarming to see people joining forces. Even though the start was a little rocky it turned out to be a big participatory event with a few onlookers by the side. As I was walking around I looked at the vendor’s displaying their work and it was amazing to see all the artwork and dedication these individuals have. Throughout the event one thing I really took away from this event was what Melia had talked about in the very beginning. About power and healing, this collective space was a way to get back indigenous treasures and culture that was stolen from them and proudly showing that to everyone. Decolonizing the space and realizing what land they’re standing on as Native American land and that we should pay respects to them and the land. Healing comes from reclaiming cultural traditions, language etc and today they showed how powerful women can be.
I loved the Jaracho and Afro-Puerto Rican bomba dancing workshop. I almost didn’t participate. But then the drums began. And everyone began to move. As the people moved I had to move with them.
I’m not a dancer. I never learned to move along with the rhythm of the music, and I never usually step out to dance and NEVER in public. Yet here I am at El Centro, packed in with strangers and having the time of my life.
There’s catharsis in movement. So often women are taught to give up their space, especially women of color. In this movement, in this dance, we take back that space and share it among each other. Thank you to all the women who led this workshop, who carried such passion and positivity in teaching us.
Group 8: Kira Smith
As we are introduced to the workshop, the lead speaker highlights the importance of the beats of the drums because it connects the dancers to the world. The speaker emphasizes the importance of not only dancing to the music, but dancing with the music as well. As the beats of the drums begin, claps begin to roar that mimic the beginnings of a slow thunder clap. The crowd begins to sway as the workshops begins. We are told that it is important to say hello before beginning the dance, to greet our ancestors and to pay respects to the 400-year-old tradition. As the crowd begins to move, the beats of the drums mimic and reflect their every move. Bomba is known as the oldest genre of music from Puerto Rico. When a drummer and the lead dancer switch places, we are introduced to the Spanish word, Paseo, meaning a leisurely walk or stroll. As the dance floor expands, the dance moves get bigger, and the energy picks up. In the third and final dance, the lead dancer brings out a shaker and a call and response begins. The crowd response with, “Hey Hey! Hey Ma Ma!”. – Paolo Eleccion
The Jarocho Rhythm and Afro-Puerto Rican Bomba Workshop was super fun! Led by special guest maestras: Ivelisse Diaz, Amarilys Rojas, Milvia Pacheco, Jade Power Sotomayor, Denise Solis, Monica Rojas and Iris Viveros. As someone who has never connected music to people this way, as someone who is usually not comfortable dancing, and as someone who is not experienced Puerto Rican and Latin culture, this was extremely impactful to me. Usually I see music as a very personal experience, but this performance has shown me how collaborative and communal most music in the world is. Everyone in the room became a performer and everyone had and has a piece of this great story to tell. Very beautiful experience to know that I have been a part of a tradition that goes back hundreds of years.
Jaylynn Lyons; Group 13
Following more introductions, we lead into Bomba. After watching a short video in class about it, I was very excited to experience it live. Bomba is a traditional dance and musical style that originated in Puerto Rico. Bomba is described to be a presentation that shows the connection between the drummer and the dancer. The drummer is required to follow the dancer in their movements. The rhythm that was instructed for majority of the session was named “Bombiando.” The participants were engaged and enlightened by the experience by following the instructor’s movements. People of all ages that joined in Bomba expressed an energy that spread throughout the whole room. To “spice it up” the last four minutes of Bomba was the rhythm called “Quembe.” Different from “Bombiando” the rhythm was faster and included a vocal portion from the dancers to intensify the emotions that radiated throughout the dance. This was an unforgettable moment to watch a community come together to dance and release feelings of excitement and love.
Alexandra Parker, AFFRAM 337, Group 12
Live Blog #1
During the 2019 Women Who Rock (Un)Conference, guest were welcomed by a center stage decorated with a vast assortment of vibrant inviting colors and pieces of cultural art that reflect diversity within the community.The overall main goal of the Women who Rock project “is to engage scholars, musicians, activist, etc. to learn more about the role of women in popular music and the creation of various culture scenes and social justice movements”. The conference opened with a choreographed dance involving vigorous foot stomping and chants that displayed confidence, projecting a sense of strong female power through the sounds and rhythm. Following the opening dance, the guest were then invited to join a workshop involving a passionate bomba drummers where we were given the opportunity to connect with their community through the inclusion of being welcomed into their dance. The WWR (Un)Conference succeeded in creating an environment that feels inclusive in the sense of building a stronger community.
Live Blog #2
An acknowledgement of diverse and different cultural traditions, dance, and music was heavily present in the theme of the WWR (Un)Conference. There was high energy in the atmosphere coming from the performers and the audience who were filled with enthusiasm as the guests were dancing to traditional Puerto Rican Bomba music. Welcoming everyone to be included in this form of tradition that represents a bigger meaning of culture, rhythm, and confidence, seemed to give everyone a sense of empowerment within themselves. The Women Who Rock organization has seemed to have reached a successful milestone that presents to the public that the power music and dance is not just exclusive to particularly assigned groups, but within the whole community entirely. Creating stronger bonds that gives individuals a true safe haven where they feel like they can belong somewhere and make a significant difference in social justice and movements.
Everyone is getting down as they learn how Latin-American dance moves. Half of the room is dedicated to learning and performing Latin-American dances while the other half is for mingling. The dancers are practically playing a game of Simon Says as they learn dance moves. One of our group members decided to join in and felt like she was part of a larger community. It’s a great atmosphere to be in. If you’re not interested in dancing, you can talk to the vendors and people who just came to enjoy the event.
Vendors come from all over. In Seattle, there’s not a lot of places where can connect to their cultural and ethnic roots, so the Women Who Rock (Un)Conference is a place where people can be their authentic selves.
Tessa Achevarra for AFRAM 337 Group #11
#1 Afro-Puerto Rican Bomba
The drums are percussive as the workshop gets into full swing. Sitting on the floor at the back, I can see feet stomping and pivoting in time with the beat of the drums, laughter and cheering every so often when the group nails a move. With the instructor at the front and a group mimicking their moves, to an onlooker, this workshop may look like a dance-fitness class. However, It is clear that this is so much more; the dancers are “dancing to the music, and with the music, and making music.” The dancers are engaged, they are a living organism. The room is filled with ordered, chaotic energy. The women are clearly wonderful teachers, since the dancers seem to become more and more cohesive. But of course, who better to teach bomba than actual Afro-Puerto Rican women?
#2 Feminist messaging
There are reminders of feminism everywhere. The air is charged with it. On the walls are posters with messages in Spanish like “autocuidado” and “todas aprendemos de la experiencia de una;” “self-care” and “we all learn from the experience of one.” These messages are printed with images of women and flowers to invoke the feminine and all of the pronouns are feminine even when they might otherwise be masculine. As the (un)conference progresses, I feel the power of these messages. Music is a form of self-care and especially empowering for women; we are all learning about new concepts and ideas from women who practice them regularly. Everyone here is eager to open up to new experiences and the women who help us to experience.
The conference started off with a bang! Mikayla, an American Indian Studies student at the University of Washington, opened the conference with a beautiful blessing of the building and a wonderful history of the land that we are on. She made us remember that we need to continue to acknowledge that those walking around the world today are not the first to have walked on the land, so it is important to be grateful for everything that those have done before us. She also let us know that she had either smashed or burned sage around the building in order to cleanse the building and the people entering so that this conference can be full of happiness and power for women who rock; I think it did the job. After Mikayla’s blessing, there were the introductions and the acknowledgements of everyone who has contributed to this day.
Though I am writing this a bit after it finished, I felt like it could not be left out of this blog. There was a dance, well, a poem, well, no, a song; it was all of it and none of it all at once. I would describe it as an interpretive dance that went along with a poem. A poem that taught you to never forget where you come from. Milvia and Iris did an amazing job in conveying the power and the strength that came with their performance. Though I did not understand most of it because it was in Spanish, I did feel the power coming from the way they stomped their feet on the stage and the way that Emilia raised and lowered her voice to the beat of their feet. You could hear a pin drop, everyone was in awe. This performance definitely paved the way for a great conference.