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Article

Halbert Barton

was born on 18 June 1937 in Ponce, Puerto Rico, and raised in the neighborhood of Bélgica, the hotbed of the southern tradition of traditional Puerto Rican bomba, la bomba sureña. The life of “Doña Isa” connected the few thriving family-based bomba communities of the 1940s–1960s to the municipal bombazos of the 2000s. As a girl she used to accompany her mother, Teresa Dávila, and father, Domingo Albizu, to the regional bomba competitions between the communities of Felix Alduén in Mayaguez and William Archevald in Ponce, from the early 1940s to the early 1970s (Lasalle, 2014). These friendly rivalries had an enormous ripple effect on the development of bomba outside the San Juan metro area in the latter half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first.

While Afro Puerto Rican bomba music and dance has suffered marginalization since its inception in early colonial times ...

Article

Hiram Guadalupe Pérez

was born on 11 December 1928 on Colón Street in Santucre, in the middle of the Cangrejero neighborhood. He learned to beat a drum in improvised workshops and street rumbas without ever undertaking any formal studies in music. When he was 9 years old, he played a bongo that his cousin made from a can of powdered milk. He mastered the large conga drum and became a musical innovator by creating a combo that included two trumpets, two saxophones, a piano, and kettledrums. At the age of 14, Cortijo played the congas and bongo in the groups of Frank Madera, Miguelito Miranda, and Agustín Cohen, and with the Conjunto de las Hermanas Sustache, the Monchito Muley Group, and the Orquesta de Parques y Recreos, among others.

Cortijo’s ingenuity proved instrumental in the development of the bomba and the plena traditional Puerto Rican musical styles and he spearheaded the later ...

Article

Mayda Grano de Oro

Cortijo y su combo had a profound influence on Puerto Rican popular music of the 1950s because it promoted the African vernacular rhythms of Plena and Bomba It was the first black group that played in the Condado Hotel one of the most exclusive hotels of the time in ...

Article

Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, José “Cheo” Feliciano moved to New York, where he launched his singing career. In the 1950s he sang on occasion with the Tito Rodriguez big band. From 1957 to 1967 he attained considerable success singing with the Joe Cuba Sextet In the ...

Article

María Soledad Romero

also known as “el alma de Puerto Rico hecha canción” (the soul of Puerto Rico made song), a Puerto Rican singer and senator of Afro-Hispanic descent, was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, on 23 May 1919 to Santiago Fernández (of Spanish descent) and Rosa María Cortada, daughter of Rafael Cortada, an immigrant from Asturias, Spain, and Adela Quiñones, an artisan of African descent. Her mother died when she was just 6 years old. She was the youngest of five sisters raised by her maternal grandmother, doña Adela.

According to Fernández Cortada, doña Adela had the greatest influence during the sisters’ formative years. She has described her grandmother as an intelligent woman who was a respected traditional spiritual healer in their community. Adela took great interest in Ruth’s education as she was a well-bred economically emancipated skilled dressmaker or modista catering to upper class clients The moment Ruth showed a ...

Article

Carlos Dalmau

Juan Morel Campos was born in the city of Ponce, the main cultural center of Puerto Rico during the nineteenth century. He studied music and composition with Manuel G. Tavárez, the most acclaimed Puerto Rican composer of his time. His musical production was varied and rich, including zarzuelas (Spanish light opera), masses, symphonies, waltzes, marches, and danzas. In the latter, Morel Campos made his most important and lasting contribution to classical music in Latin America. Of the 550 works attributed to him, approximately half of them are danzas for piano, including No me toques, El torbellino, Felices dias, and Vano empeño.

Morel Campos created a distinct national style by modifying the classic European molds. For his creative compositions he is considered the father of the danza puertorriqueña. Like other composers in Cuba, Mexico, and Brazil he transformed classical styles by incorporating ...

Article

In 1954 Ismael Rivera and Rafael Cortijo formed the musical group Cortijo y Su Combo, which played Afro–Puerto Rican rhythms such as Plena and Bomba. The group was based in Santurce, Puerto Rico, and powerfully influenced the development of Caribbean musical styles during the 1950s and 1960s. Rivera's singing style was unmistakable and innovative, oscillating between the harsh urban sound of the new salsa rhythms and the sweet musicality of the old Cuban Son. Indeed, Afro-Cuban singer and bandleader Beny Moré called Rivera “El Sonero Mayor” (“the Greatest Son Singer”). In 1971 Rivera started his own group, called Ismael Rivera y Sus Cachimbos. Rivera also studied and promoted black culture in Puerto Rico by advocating the creation of a museum of Afro–Puerto Rican culture in San Juan.