Bulla en el Barrio is New York’s Colombian Bullerengue collective.
“Bulla” means applause in Spanish. Bullerengue comes from Caribbean Colombian women’s puberty rites in San Basilio de Palenque, the first free African town in the Americas. So it was originally sung by women.
Bulla en el Barrio is inspired by the tradition, but once you come to New York, you are a New Yorker. This is a beautiful tree, a sacred ceiba growing out of the Bullerengue root.
The tradition is similar to bomba in Puerto Rico. The Caribbean drumming, dancing and singing traditions are very much alike, although each place has a different mix of geography, history, Indigenous, European and African, so all of the traditions are unique with common roots.
The drum is healing. If you see Bulla, try to sit or stand as close to the drums as you can. You will feel it in your heart. You will feel it in your soul. And when you leave, you will be a little lighter than when you arrived. This is Bullerengue.
Bulla en el Barrio plays Barbès
Friday, March 13, 2020 ~ Bulla plays Barbès in Park Slope, Brooklyn at 10pm. $10 suggested donation.
Also Monday, March 30, 2020 at 9:30pm.
Bulla en el Barrio
Bulla was founded by Carolina Oliveros. She was born in the Caribbean city of Barranquilla. It’s the port at the mouth of the Magdalena River, the great river of Colombia. Barranquilla is special because the city was built by the people, not by the Spanish colonizers.
Bulla en el Barrio is New York’s first and only Bullerengue group. It started in 2014 as a group of women who would sing and dance in Central Park.
The group is Drummers: Camilo Rodriguez, Juan Ospina, Andres Jimenez, Gabriel Benavides, Andres Fonseca, Victor Cruz
Dancers: Victoria Tapias, Rocio Jaimes, Julissa Maldonado, Beatriz Lopez, Martha Herrera, Roxane Kasegari
Singer: Carolina Oliveros
Flushing Town Hall
Bulla en el Barrio plays Flushing Town Hall in Flushing, Queens on Sunday, July 21, 2019 with a dance lesson at 1pm and concert at 2pm. From $10 (teens free)
Bulla joins Moroccan singers Innov Gnawa at C’mon Everybody in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn on Friday, November 3, 2017 at 8 pm. $12
Bulla plays the ColombiaFest IV Cultural Trade Fair at Penn Plaza Pavilion in Chelsea, Manhattan, Saturday – Sunday, October 21 – 22, 2017.
The group plays Terraza 7 in Woodside/Jackson Heights, Queens, on Tuesday, August 29, 2017 at 8pm.
Bulla en el Barrio featuring Emilsen Pacheco performs a free concert at the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center on Thursday, August 24, 2017 at 7:30pm.
Ms. Oliveros learned to sing Bullerengue in Urabá, a region a little further south along Colombia’s Atlantic coast. Her master teacher was drummer and composer Emilsen Pacheco. He is one of the best bullerengue musicians in Colombia and will join this performance.
The spirit that enabled the people of the Palenques to survive, to escape, and to preserve their traditions, lives on. The first free Black Americans would be very proud to know that their traditions carry on. Let freedom sing.
The African roots of Colombia are deep. Bullerengue is one of the oldest African rhythms in the Americas. It comes from Colombia’s Caribbean coast near Cartagena where slaves escaped to the Palenque of San Basilio.
Cartagena is a colonial town that was the main Colombian port for the Spanish transatlantic trade. It was a major regional slave port like Havana, Cuba; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Charleston, South Carolina. The Africans were Bantu peoples from Central Africa.
A Palanque is a walled village of escaped slaves and Native Americans hidden in the interior. If you have no idea what that means, watch the excellent Colombian telenovela La Esclava Blanca (The White Slave). It may be available on Netflix with subtitles. The story isn’t perfect, it’s a telenovela. But it provides a small window into that time and place.
Imagine you were kidnapped by aliens, taken on a terrible journey to their planet, and forced to work under brutal conditions. If somehow you escaped, you would probably sing the songs of your former life to comfort your soul and to teach your children who they are.
This is Bullerengue. It’s a rhythm and dance that originally celebrated a girl’s transition to womanhood at puberty.
The dance is done in the Pollera, a peasant dress with origins in Andalusia, Spain that African and Native American women were forced to wear in the colonial period. We may love the Pollera now, but it was originally a servant uniform.
Palenque of San Basilio
Palenque of San Basilio is a small town that is important because the townspeople helped more slaves to escape from Cartagena. They were so successful that the Spanish granted the people of San Basilio freedom in 1691. They were the first free Africans in America.
San Basilio de Palenque is the only palenque that survived to the present day. There African traditions were preserved. Some people still speak Palenquero, a unique Spanish-Bantu language with roots around the Congo River in West Africa.
For more information, visit bullaenelbarrio.com