Denise Solis

Afro-Puerto Rican Bomba

Afro-Puerto Rican Bomba

Bomba is not just a musical tradition, but a way of life that is necessary for everyday survival across generations and geographies, including California.”

– Denise Solis

Denise Solis on subidor. Photo: Courtesy of the artist.

Denise Solis began learning Bomba from Afro-Caribbean maestro Neftali Medina in 2000. In 2002, she started studying Bomba at Berkeley’s La Pena Cultural Center under Hector Lugo and Roman Ito Carrillo. Her teachers and collaborators have also included Jesus Cepeda Brenes (El Tambor Mayor from La Familia Cepeda), Jorge Emmanuelli, Victor Emmanuelli, Jerry Ferrao, Oxil Febles, La Familia Cepeda (Modesto Cepeda, Brenda y Gladys Camara), and Hector Calderon. She is the second female in the Bomba tradition to play the subidor (lead drum), as well as the first female (and queer female) in the tradition to play this instrument in Puerto Rico’s Bombazo settings (community jams). Solis was also the founding Director of the West Coast’s first all-female Bomba group: Las Bomberas de la Bahia.




Apprenticeship Program

Leslie Quintanilla on buleo. Photo: Courtesy of the artist.

Afro-Puerto Rican Bomba
with apprentice Leslie Quintanilla

Bomba is an ensemble musical tradition where practitioners learn to rotate collective roles between dancing, drumming, and singing, becoming holistic practitioners. Through this apprenticeship, Leslie Quintanilla, an experienced Bomba dancer, will develop as a buleo drummer with specific attention to Puerto Rican regional differences in rhythms, technique, and community practice.





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