Atabal is a Puerto Rican Bomba Fusion band that was founded by Héctor Rodríguez “Atabal” in 1983. It was a different world then.
The band is from Tras Talleres, Santurce (Behind the Workshops), a machine shop neighborhood that used to have workshops for the trains that once circled the island. Today Tras Talleres is known for Calle Cerra, Santurce’s art mural district that is becoming a popular bar district.
Tras Talleres is also where Puerto Rican Salsa legend Andy Montánez “El Niño de Trastalleres” (Gran Combo) is from. Montañez contributed to some of Atabal’s early recordings and still steps in once in a while. You can run into him on the street in Santurce.
What began as a more traditional Bomba percussion and vocal quartet has evolved into a big band with the sounds of Puerto Rican Música Jíbara, American Jazz, Jamaican Dancehall and even Colombian Vallenato from the Andes. It all fits together beautifully because it is all Caribbean music. Even if we speak different languages and have different histories, we all understand the drum.
As a Puerto Rican, Atabal’s music and videos fill my heart to overflow with pride and joy. They make me want to be with our people because the African drum says, “the people are gathering together in peace.” The drum is not just rhythm. We gather around it as an expression of family, faith, community and love. You can never get enough of that.
Like all bands that have been popular for so long, Atabal is now led by a new generation, Atabal’s son, singer Caymmi Rodríguez with producer David Marrero of OxLab who has his hand in many interesting projects. The change of generations doesn’t diminish the band. Caymmi began studying music in the womb. That’s how it passes. Musical babies sing and dance before they can walk. (We spoke with Mom).
The music is changing a little as it should, because life is changing. There are more urban influences now, but the core is the best of our Afro-Caribbean traditions. The call of the drum never changes, and la llamada (the call) is like a bolt of lightning into your heart. Once it strikes, you are changed forever.
Released on La Noche de San Juan, Thursday, June 23, 2022. 🇵🇷
Atabal is one of the cool bands active in Puerto Rico now. Remenéate means shake yourself. It’s the Caribbean dancer’s shoulder shake. Atabal is releasing a new “Remenéate” video featuring singer Caymmi Rodríguez on Friday, June 24 at 7pm.
The song is based on a baquiné chorus, an Afro-Caribbean wake or shiva where the community gathers all night before a baby is buried in the morning. It is how we turn sorrow at the loss into joy, because the child has returned to heaven. Any time we gather, we drum, sing and dance together.
This old Nigerian tradition comes to us through Loíza Aldea, a small town known for the richness of its African Diaspora culture. Loíza is a center of Bomba, Puerto Rico’s oldest drum, song and dance tradition. It is the home of the Batey de Los Hermanos Ayala, one of the sacred community circles on the island, and Las Fiestas de Santiago Apóstol, our favorite patron saint festival.
Both versions of the song are produced by David Marrero of OxLab who is producing a lot of interesting Puerto Rican music from artists such as Ama Ríos, Yubá Iré, Almas Band and others. @marrero_oxlab/
We can’t wait to see the new video, but the last one made us smile. Whatever sorrow you need to let go of, remenéate (shake it off) with Atabal. ¡WEPA!
This is more than a version of the song with a different singer. We spoke with Abuela. The family had a baquiné a year ago during the Covid pandemic. The original video makes sense to us now. It was the community gathering to help the family through a hard moment. It’s a beautiful video. Es la verda’. ¡Remenéate! 🇵🇷
By “El Callejero, Cocolo, Co-Keith”
June 29, 2022 (Ogun’s Day)