With nearly every seat was occupied in Fowler Hall, the clock turned three, and the lights dimmed. Members of AfriCaribe, a non–profit performance group from Chicago that promotes Puerto Rican and Caribbean cultures through music, dance and theater, took the stage.
The lights turned on and there were three men sitting down with drums in hand and three women wearing long, brightly–colored skirts with white heels on. The three men, including a seven–year–old boy, started playing the drums as the dancers danced around them until they found their spot on the opposing side of the stage with microphones.
After the first song, founder of AfriCaribe, Evaristo “Tito” Rodriguez, told the crowd what the bomba, which the group would be dancing to for the performance, was all about.
“The bomba is a musical dance primarily influenced by our (Puerto Rican) African ancestors,” Rodriguez said. “It was a way to continue to survive for them and an important part of bringing people together.”
As he began to play the next song, the rest of the dancers came out and proceeded to dance around the drummers as well.
Then, one at a time, the dancers would step up to the front of the stage and, as director of the Black Cultural Center Renee Thomas put it, “tease the drummer to mimic (their) body movements with similar drum rhythms.”
After every song, Rodriguez would explain the meaning behind the next song as well as interesting facts about the bomba in Puerto Rico’s culture.
Shannon Horvath, a senior in the College of Health and Human Sciences, said, “I thought the performance was interesting. I didn’t know much about the Caribbean culture before coming, but I learned a lot.”
Rodriguez announced that it was his 50th birthday but decided to come to Purdue anyway.
“What better thing to do on my birthday then things I love the most, with people I love the most,” Rodriguez said.
He was also sick at the time of the performance, and said he was losing his voice but wasn’t too upset about it.
“Am I listening right?” Rodriguez said. “My voice is sounding like sexy today.”
He asked for any questions from the audience, and a little girl asked if she could play the drums. Rodriguez said she could, and the crowd clapped along as the girl played with the rest of the AfriCaribe group while her mother took pictures from the crowd.
Haley Smith, a senior in the College of Health and Human Sciences, said she liked the dancing the most.
“I thought the dancing was really fun, and it kept me awake,” Smith said. “If they ever come again, people should definitely go to their performance.”
During the last song, Rodriguez invited people from the audience to dance on stage, and a variety of ages went up and learned the bomba.
At the end, there was another question and answer session, during which a fan said, “I am a very old fan of the bomba, and I would like to thank you for sharing that performance with us here at Purdue. We hope you will come back soon.”
The audience clapped to show they agreed and Rodriguez and the rest of the AfriCaribe group smiled.