From the Colombian coast to New York City, "Nowhere to Fall" is a journey into a centuries-old, Afro-Colombian, music/dance tradition, told through the intertwined stories of three women across three generations, using music as a tool of resistance and reconciliation.
The voices of Ceferina Banquez (Montes de Maria) and Pabla Flores (Maria la Baja) are presented in their native, rural, Colombian landscape while Carolina Oliveros (New York) brings Bullerengue to the urban U.S. through the creation of an immigrant group called "Bulla en el Barrio".
The film explores the music of Bullerengue as a way of life, keeping alive an oral tradition, giving a voice to minorities affected by civil war and displacement, underlining the importance of art, community, the women's role and the Afro-Colombian identity.
More about the Bullerengue
The Bullerengue was born in the region of Montes de Maria during Colonial times, when escaped slaves created the dance as a means of expressing the realities of daily life, resistance and hope. The region was greatly affected by Colombian’s long internal war. Many residents were displaced or killed. But the tradition never entirely disappeared. Today, after five decades of violence (during which more than a quarter million people Colombians died and nearly seven million displaced) the area has become safe enough to return. Only now can this story be told.
Bullerengue is a rhythm belonging to the bailes cantados tradition of Colombia. The main elements are the voice, drums and palms (clapping). It dates back to the African descendants of Palenque de San Basilio, a village in the foothills near Montes de María founded by escaped slaves in the 17th century.
Though there’s no official history, oral tradition claims this rhythm started as a fertility ritual danced by pregnant women unable to dance faster rhythms. That's why the dance consists of small steps and a slow movement of the hips with hands touching the belly.
The word “Bullerengue” has different meanings. One of them is “party noise”. Another refers to the pollera, a kind of billowy skirt used in this dance.
Some of its main characteristics include:
- strong emphasis on rhythm and improvisation over melody
- employment of large groups of musicians (usually at least 12, mostly women)
- call-and-response between the lead singer (la cantadora) and chorus (las respondonas)
The group forms a semicircle, and las respondonas step out to dance one by one, called by the the sounds of the drums. They also invite people to dance and participate in the celebration.
Oral tradition, identity and resistance, inheritance and memory, community, and immigration are staged in colorfully poetic combinations in which music draws forth stories of the political, social, and economic consequences of a neocolonial society filled with contradictions.