Saturday, October 3, 2009


The song Amalia (No Quiere Ir Ebozo) (which translates roughly into 'Amalia don't wanna go husband' in 18th century Black Caribbean Spanish), might be based on a true story of an enslaved African woman who was sold or given to marry against her will and separated from her family. Her voice and story persist today in this sad, but beautiful, wailing bomba - which is an ecstatic Afro-diasporic musical genre from the Spanish Caribbean island of Borinquen.

In addition to the compassion that it awakens and the natural, organic flow of the song, I think one reason why I love this song so much is because history was told to us from the perspective of the conquerors. The conquered, often not even knowing how to read or write, had no other resource outside of their music, and so they danced their pain away. Amalia is a song which was preserved in this way: it is memory which is reproduced in the body of the bomba dancer. It is a dramatized, danced, intangible historical document. The ancestors dance and raise their voices, long forgotten, and tell history from their viewpoint through bomba, and now with the magic of the internet the whole world can hear them!

Amalia was popularized by salsa giant Willie Colón, then by legendary performer Héctor Lavoe. The version in this video is from William Cepeda, from one of the most well known bomba families in Puerto Rico.

No comments: