Escuela de Bomba y Plena Tata Cepeda, Traditional Arts Touring Grant Recipient

In the landscape of cultural preservation and community empowerment, Escuela de Bomba y Plena Tata Cepeda in Kissimmee, Florida, emerges as a vital force. Founded in 2018, this institution endeavors to uphold and propagate the rich cultural heritage of Bomba and Plena, Puerto Rico's oldest genres of music. In a recent interview with Vanessa De Leon, a key advisor and leader at the Escuela, she shared the transformative impact of their work, and the support they received through a Traditional Arts Touring grant from South Arts to support a residency with the esteemed Angel Reyes.

Angel Reyes leading a drum-making workshop
Angel Reyes leading a drum-making workshop

With funds from a Traditional Arts Touring grant, Escuela de Bomba y Plena Tata Cepeda was able to engage Angel Reyes, an elder musician and teacher of Bomba, who played a pivotal role in presenting and teaching the community about the history of Bomba. This traditional musical form, originating from the days of enslaved Africans on sugar cane plantations, holds a profound significance as a means of expression. The grant facilitated workshops that covered the historical context, dance, and even the craftsmanship involved in creating the instruments used in Bomba music.

Angel brought a unique perspective and expertise to the community. His residency included teaching the history of Bomba, conducting workshops on instrument building, and imparting the art of Bomba dance. The community's response was overwhelmingly positive, with participants expressing their excitement through surveys and a desire for more such experiences. This engagement not only enriched the participants' understanding of Bomba but also fostered a sense of pride and connection to their cultural roots.

The impact of Escuela de Bomba y Plena Tata Cepeda extends beyond performance and appreciation of music. The Escuela is proud of the educational aspect of their work, noting that the grant allowed them to offer structured classes and workshops. These classes cover percussion, dance, and even virtual training, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of Bomba for participants of all ages. The Escuela's commitment to education is not only about imparting musical skills but also instilling discipline, teamwork, and self-confidence in its students.

Drumming workshop with Angel Reyes
Drumming workshop with Angel Reyes

Escuela de Bomba y Plena Tata Cepeda plays a crucial role in preserving Puerto Rico's intangible heritage within the region. The historical roots of Bomba can be traced to origins of enslaved Africans working in sugar cane plantations. The traditional clothing, the prohibition of women playing drums in the early days, and the evolution of the music over time all contribute to the rich tapestry of Bomba's history. Barbara Liz Cepeda, the school's founder and member of the renowned Cepeda Family from Puerto Rico, works tirelessly to keep these traditions alive, passing down not only the techniques but the stories and emotions embedded in Bomba. In 2018, Barbara Liz Cepeda, eldest daughter of Tata Cepeda and great-granddaughter of Rafael Cepeda Atiles, established the school as a tribute to her mother's life, naming it after her. Barbara aims to weave her mother into the fabric of their shared legacy and contributions to Afro-Puerto Rican culture and heritage, which they are collectively spreading across the diaspora. The Cepeda Family is a renowned family in Puerto Rico known for keeping Bomba and Plena music and dance traditions alive for 8 interrupted generations.

Through their work, Escuela de Bomba y Plena Tata Cepeda collaborates with vital artists like Angel Reyes to broaden its impact. The school's connection with Angel, a respected teacher and elder in the Bomba community, is a testament to their dedication to keeping culture and traditions alive with their students and community. Escuela de Bomba y Plena Tata Cepeda stands as a vibrant testament to the enduring power of cultural heritage and music in transforming individuals and communities. Through education, community engagement, and a commitment to preserving their heritage, the Escuela not only imparts musical skills but also instills a sense of identity and pride in its students. As we celebrate the rhythms of Bomba and Plena, we recognize the Escuela's vital role in ensuring that these traditions thrive and resonate for generations to come.

To learn more about Escuela de Bomba y Plena Tata Cepeda, visit their website at

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