Updated: Jul 27, 2022
“We need to make sure our history is written by us, not from someone else's perspective.”
Since its beginning over 400 years ago, Bomba has been about resistance and resilience. With its roots in African traditions of call and response, the art of Bomba is a skillful interweaving of music and dance, as dancers, singers and percussionists are all in conversation. Enslaved Africans taken from their homeland and brought to Puerto Rico spoke many different languages but were able to communicate with each other through the drum rhythms they created together. With the hot sun beating down as they worked sugar cane fields, Bomba became a way to express both sorrow and hope. Today Bomba perseveres, preserving history, creating community and reminding us that our stories matter. The rhythms of Bomba running through her veins, Milteri Tucker Concepcion heard Bomba calling for her and she answered. Afro-Boricua, a creator, and a self-starter, Milteri is all about curating and showcasing our history and culture.
Born in San Juan and raised in Ponce, Milteri grew up surrounded by family, food and music. Her love for Bomba started in her living room, dancing around with her tia moving to the rhythms of Puerto Rico - Salsa, Bomba and Plena. What started as shimmying in her living room later evolved into both talent and passion for the performing arts and more specifically Bomba!
“Whatever I create, I think about the people I’m representing and those who came before me.”
Everything Militeri does is for the culture. Her choreography not only pays homage to Afro-Boricua heritage, but elevates it to the world stage. Performing both traditional Bomba and a fusion of Bomba with contemporary dance, Milteri has presented her work at Alvin Ailey, the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (BAAD), and El Museo de Barrio to name a few. Committed to preserving traditional Bomba and dedicated to her community, Milteri created Bombazo Dance Co. which also acts as a non-profit providing free Bomba dance and drum classes in NYC. People from all ages and walks of life can come together and learn the rhythms and story of Bomba. Even during the pandemic, Milteri has taken Bombazo online bringing Bomba to the world from the Bronx all the way to Sydney.
Growing up Milteri spent many Christmases in the Bronx. During these trips she would spend her time taking dance classes, going to shows or learning to sew with her abuela. Little did she know that those sewing skills would one day come in handy. When starting her company, Milteri struggled to find the Bomba skirts she needed. The full flowing skirts that cut through the air as dancers move to the beat of the drum are a staple of Bomba. Drawing on sewing lessons with her abuela, she started designing and making skirts herself. With the support of her mother and two additional seamstresses, Bombazo Wear was born! “A company by a dancer for dancers,” Bombazo Wear is a stunning line of Afro-Carribean skirts growing in popularity. In 2019 and 2020, Bombazo Wear was featured in New York Fashion Week bringing Bomba to the forefront of the fashion world. At both HighTechModa and Harlem Fashion Week, Bombazo debuted a collection of skirts honoring the diaspora throughout the Caribbean.
Our history and experiences are a part of who we are. For Milteri, Bomba is about understanding our history, our resilience and preserving the essence of our culture. Committed to learning more about Bomba and gathering resources for the next generation of Bombazos, Milteri set out on a journey to find books that could help teach others about Bomba. After scouring libraries throughout Puerto Rico and taking a deep dive online, she was unable to find books dedicated to Bomba and its history. So, Milteri did what she always does, she researched and came up with a solution. In November of 2018, Milteri released her own children’s book “Bomba Puertorriqueña!” The colorful and bilingual book written by Milteri and illustrated by Mia Roman, tells the history of Bomba and highlights Puerto Rico’s African ancestry. The same day the book was released it sold out immediately!
True to her nature as a cultural guerrera, Milteri’s fashion line, dance company and book pay it forward whenever they can. In the aftermath of hurricane Maria and the 2019 earthquakes in Puerto Rico, Bombazo Wear and Bombazo Dance Co. partnered with local organizations to provide relief to affected communities and artists. Through Bombazo Dance Co, Milteri is awakening the world to Bomba's rich past and guaranteeing a dynamic future.
To learn more about Bombazo Dance Co and purchase a book or skirt visit the links below:
And look out for Milteri in Lin Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights movie!