Roman "Ito" Carrillo (right) and 2023 apprentice Pablo Paredes Burgos (left) at an event where Pablo edited a podcast of Ito's biography, and Ito received a Culture Carrier Award. Photo: Tom Ehrlích.

Roman “Ito” Carrillo

Puerto Rican Bomba

Puerto Rican Bomba
Roman “Ito” Carrillo plays requinto in 2022, at the home of a Bay Area Bomba y Plena Workshop member. Photo: Marina Romani.

Bomba is a hundreds-of-years-old Puerto Rican musical tradition with influences from three major cultures: Taino Indian, Spanish, and African. It is characterized by the unique exchange between a dancer and the lead drummer (prímo or subidor), the call and response of the songs, and by the instruments: barilles (barrel drums), maracas (shakers), and cuas (sticks). An art form which inspires self-confidence, Bomba also unites families and communities.

Raised in Puerto Rico, Roman “Ito” Carrillo began to learn Bomba as a teenager, studying with Rafael Cepeda Afiles, founder of Familia Cepeda and the patriarch of Puerto Rican Bomba. Ito also danced with the First National Folkloric Ballet of Puerto Rico, one of the most important Bomba institutions in Puerto Rico. Since then, he has played with many of the leading Bomba groups on the island and in the diaspora, including the legendary Pleneros de la 21 in New York. He began teaching Bomba in the mid 1990s (leading workshops and participating multiple times in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program), and has recorded Bomba professionally on two albums (with a third in  production).


Roman “Ito” Carrillo featured in La Peña Cultura Center’s “La Peña Community Stories,” 2021.


Apprenticeship Program


Advanced Bomba Drumming and Dancing
with apprentice Pablo Paredes Burgos

Pablo Paredes Burgos (center) plays Buleo with members of the Bay Area Bomba y Plena Workshop, in 2022. Photo: Carolina Cisneros Cruz.

Ito will help Pablo Paredes Burgos master three instruments (maracas, cuas, and barriles) and four Bomba rhythms (Sicá, Yubá, Cuembé, and Holnadé). They will also practice Buleo (drumming of the core rhythms on barriles), the basic step and paseo mastery of dance in each rhythm, and the established cannon of rhythmic phrases for Primo drumming and their dance expressions.




Bomba Drumming, Singing, and Dancing
with apprentice Hector Luis Rivera

In 2014, Ito worked with apprentice Hector Luis Rivera, improving his skills as a practitioner and teacher of the drumming, singing, and dancing traditions of Bomba.



Bomba Percussion; Singing and Dancing
with apprentice Ali Luna

Ito was also a master artist in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program in 2006. He guided Ali Luna, an experienced drummer, in refining his skills on Bomba percussion, as well as singing and dancing.


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