3/27/17 Comment by Administrator:
The Music of My Culture
Puerto Rico, the little island that stretches just 3,500 square miles, is known for a specific music genre that is famously known all around the world, Reggeaton. It originated in Puerto Rico in the late 1900s, and rapidly caught fame and spread throughout all Latin America. The name derived from the reggae music of Jamaica, which is what influenced the dance beat of Reggaeton, and incorporates some of today’s Hip Hop. Other Latin rhythms are used in Reggaeton such as Bomba and Salsa, which are also native to Puerto Rico. Reggaeton urbanized an underground movement that was focused on the youth. The dance style that is incorporated with Reggaeton is called Perreo, which is a series of provocative and sexual dance movements. Reggeaton could either be sung or rapped, sometimes a mix of the two is commonly used in today’s Reggaeton music. Reggaeton eventually grew out of this underground movement, and exploded into mainstream Latin music.
Puerto Rico has a variety of other cultural music, such as Bomba and Plena. Bomba is unique musical genre for dance in Puerto Rico. It was a musical tradition brought by the enslaved African Americans in the early European colonial period in Puerto Rico. They used bomba music as a source of political and spiritual expression, and the lyrics delivered a sense of anger and sadness at their situation. In spite of all this, bomba made them dance and celebrate, and helped them build a community. The instruments that were included in bomba were: a barrel/drum, maracas, and the cuá/fuá (two sticks that were played against the wood of the barrels or on another piece of wood). Bomba has a variety of styles which differ in the rhythm they play. One style of bomba is used in festivals, honoring St. James, the apostle who helped the people of Loíza (a town in Puerto Rico) from invading foreign enemies. This ten- day festival is celebrated by wearing giant costumes and long-horned masks called vejigante, which was purposely made to scare evil spirits and pirates away.
On the other hand, Plena developed from bomba in the beginning of the 20th century. Plena differed from bomba though. Plena lyrics are narrative, and they tell a story about events, political movements, and about anything that was currently happening. Some people call plena “the newspaper of the people.” Plena has only one basic rhythm, which makes it different from bomba considering that it has sixteen rhythms. The instrumentation of plena has varied throughout the years, but one significantly irreplaceable instrument is the pandereta. The pandereta is a round hand drum that is shaped in three different sizes. Panderetas resemble tambourines but without the cymbals. In plena, all three sizes of the panderetas are used and have a specific role. The largest size is known as the seguidor, which is responsible for playing the basic rhythm of plena. The mid-size pandereta is called the punteador/segundo, and shares the same responsibility as the seguidor. The smallest size is called the requinto, which improvises over the rhythm of the other drums. The requinto creates a rhythmic interaction with the call and response vocals along with the other instruments. Although there might be different modern versions of these hand percussions, the traditional ones are made up of leather of goat skin and a rum barrel.
In Puerto Rico, plena has different variants in the genre and is played differently depending on the region. For example, in a city in Puerto Rico called Ponce, where is said to be native to plena, is played at a slower tempo compared to another city called Santurce, where it is played little faster. The plena that is played in Ponce, could fall under the variant called Plena Lamento, which is a very slow tempo with lyrics that portray sadness and misery. Another variant, Plena Poética, has a medium tempo and poetic verses to the lyrics. Also, Plena Mambo, has a fast tempo but a short chorus. All these variants are played in different regions throughout Puerto Rico.
All in all, Puerto Rico is modernly known for Reggeaton, which has helped shape and grow the musical industry in Puerto Rico. Bomba and Plena are the roots of Puerto Rico, and is a defining musical sound of the Afro-Puerto Rican population. These Afro-Puerto Rican traditions have even migrated to New York, and in very specific places, is still practiced by Afro-Puerto Ricans today.
· “Puerto Rican Bomba and Plena: Shared Traditions – Distinct Rhythms.” Smithsonian Folkways. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2017. <http://www.folkways.si.edu/puerto-rican-bomba-plena-shared-traditions-distinct-rhythms/latin-world/music/article/smithsonian>.
· Bailyn, Evan. “Music Genre: Bomba – Music of Puerto Rico.” Music Genre: Bomba – Music of Puerto Rico. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2017. <http://www.musicofpuertorico.com/index.php/genre/bomba/>.
· “Rhythms of purerto rico – plena.” Rhythms of purerto rico – plena. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2017. <http://www.rhythmweb.com/jorge/plena.htm>.
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