Where do we begin to explain how amazing it was to travel to Puerto Rico to participate in two festivals entirely dedicated to the afro Puerto Rican folkloric music, bomba. As novice practicioners of the music and eternal students, this opportunity in March 2019 to be part of Segunda Quimbamba's presentation in Libre Soberao as well as part of the diaspora's representation in El 9no Encuentro de Tambores was an incredibly important experience to us. We certainly didn't feel worthy of that level of access, but we did feel tremendously grateful to have it.
Our podcast episode "Libre y Encontrando" goes in depth on how amazing the weekend was from Friday evening's welcome party by bomberxs from Salinas to Sunday's Encuentro de Tambores afterparty in Trujillo Alto. To hear us talk about some of the highlights of this trip and our reflections, take a listen.
It was overwhelmingly emotional to be on the plane looking over the island as we approach San Juan airport and knowing that this trip's purpose is to sing, dance, and drum, what we understand to be resistance music. Music that has been passed down through generations of Puerto Ricans for hundreds of years. Music that makes us feel like we are connecting with those ancestors. Music that fills our internal cup over and over again. Music that carries our collective essence as a people. While we were there for Libre Soberao, and that's the main topic of our podcast episode regarding this trip, we want to take this moment to do a deep dive of what being a part of Encuentro de Tambores meant for us.
Friday morning we find ourselves in Taller Tambuye, surrounded by bomberxs from Washington, Florida, New York, New Jersey, California, Puerto Rico and probably some places in between. It is an unfamiliar space, we didn't know most of the people in the room, except for one or two of the New Yorkers and the New Jersey people from Segunda Quimbamba or by way of SQ. We feel like everyone in the room really knows their shit when it comes to this and immediately feel like retreating. But, kicking back and watching wasn't an option. See, we were there for a reason, to sing coro and in a music that is call and response, the chorus is a key element. All good, because we figure, certainly a lot of these people will be joining us on the mics to sing chorus as well... right? Wrong. It was four of us SQ people, and we were about to get started. None of this felt the same as the weeks on weeks we spent rehearsing with SQ. It all felt brand new. In a moment, we were in a song, there was no way for us to not move forward in full force as a chorus singers in front of 20+ people expecting us to do so. And so we did. We said F it, if it's super bad, someone will stop us, someone will correct us.
Sure enough, our lead singers started to tune us up and you know what? That wasn't a bad thing at all. In the couple of hours we spent, working our voices out, a to' lo que da, repeating and repeating and repeating the coros to the four songs we were to preform that Sunday, we learned such a tremendous amount: paying more attention to the sounds, fluctuations, tones and pitches of the other singers in new ways. By Sunday, we had taken advantage of every car ride to sync up and practice the coros. We had focused at every group rehearsal and at showtime, many of us, even though we were joined by so many others by that time to have a coro of something like 15 people, let the full force of our voices rock throughout those 10 minutes on stage.
It was growth and it was freeing.