The bomba drum-making process

by Edgardo Díaz Díaz

To make sense of the various toques de bomba, we may start by getting a little more familiar with the drum used to mark the defining patterns, that is, the buleador often referred as one of the two bulá drums (if we tie this mysterious term to words like bambulá, or bambulaé, one may find out how close bomba is to the remote days, when sugar plantations all across the Americas provided their slaves with the raw materials to make the drum):
[Excerpt from Bomba, Dancing the Drum]:

"When you get the barrel, which comes from a rum factory, you start by taking off each brace. One, two, three...you disassemble it and sort the slats into bundles. Each one is for the same drum. Then you clean it to get rid of the carbon. -it has to be very clean. I started making drums at the age of five. I was always right there with Papi [Dad]. He made drums. Then you put in the wedge, at an angle...the angle of the wedge. You put it there. Make sure it fits. By hand. Then you wrap the cloth around, covering the hoop (el aro). You cover it completely, then put it on like this (poniendo el aro sobre el tambor). When Papi [Dad] used to shave the goat skin or make panderetas or make wedges, I was right there with him. I'd help him and he gave me the discipline I needed, like how to hold the hammer. Little by little, I was learning. And he kept explaining to me how to do it. ...use sand and a bottle without a sharp edge, you proceed to stretch it (the goat skin), and scrape it (afeitarlo). For the buleador, the drum with the deepest tone, you use skin from a male goat. Then you see the white, brown, black patches. At the end, to celebrate that the drum is done, we can play a Yubá that says ...(In 6/8)...Yubá la marilé…”

The process of manufacturing a buleador is similar to the one for making the smaller primo, or subidor except that, for the latter, one must use the skin of a female goat.

Content credits Center for Puerto Rican Studies
Image Credits: Cortesy of Edgardo Díaz Díaz| All Rights Reserved