Los Pleneros de la 21
Bomba and Plena
“I have felt a strong need to reach people, particularly students, to share the joy and beauty of my musical heritage. Beyond my own influence, which has shaped Los Pleneros, have been the musical and personal contributions of all of the artists who have been a part of Los Pleneros and our collective desire to reach others.”
Traditional Puerto Rican bomba and plena music and dance come alive in this dynamic program. Five members of Los Pleneros de la 21 share the history and culture of Puerto Rico through music, dance and song.
The goal of this dynamic performance is to bring alive the vibrant history and culture of Puerto Rico through music, dance and song.
Space and Technical Needs
- A clean, well-swept stage
Activities to Prepare Your Students
- Brainstorm with your students everything they know about Puerto Rico
- Discuss with your students when and why their families came to New York; what traditions did they bring along with them?
- Discuss audience participation (listening carefully and participating when invited to do so)
- Ask students to discuss the differences between a live performance and one they would listen to on a CD, hear on the radio, or watch on television
Useful Vocabulary and Terms to Share
- Bomba: The bomba developed during the Spanish colonial period when African slaves worked in the sugar mills; a man and a woman perform the bomba together; the woman performs fixed steps, while her partner dances to the rhythm of the solo drummer
- Plena: The plena has been called the “newspaper of the people” or a “musical newspaper.” It developed in neighborhoods made up of immigrants from St. Kitts, the Virgin Islands, Jamaica and other West Indian islands. Plena songs are based on real facts, and their interpreters take inspiration from everyday happenings in the surrounding communities. The songs often help preserve community history. Like bomba, the lyrics of plena are in a call-and-response form. The singer introduces the verse, and the chorus repeats it, assuring the participation of the audience.
- Pandereta: Tambourine
- Guiro: Gourd
- Cuatro: Ten-string guitar
- Harmonica: A small, rectangular musical instrument consisting of a row of free reeds set back in air holes, played by exhaling or inhaling; also called a “mouth organ”
Los Pleneros de la 21 was formed in New York City by Juan Gutierrez and a group of Puerto Rican community musicians in order to carry on the tradition of the bomba and plena.
The group takes its name from Parada 21 (Bus Stop 21), which was in the Santurce section of San Juan, Puerto Rico, where many great bomba and plena players have come from. All of the members of Los Pleneros de la 21 either grew up playing bomba and plena or learned their music from master musicians. The ensemble members not only play, sing and dance, but also make their own instruments.
Los Pleneros de la 21 on MySpace