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Bomba y Plena - What is it?


About The Band
Bomba y Plena - What is it?
Press Clips
Up & Coming Concerts


Bomba y Plena: Sometimes people say it together so fast it's like one thing. But bomba and plena, the two major genres of Afro-Rican music, are very different.

Of the two, bomba is the oldest, and comes directly from Africa- specifically, the Ashanti, where many black Puerto Ricans came from originally. The musical form is a call and response between the leader and the chorus over the many rhythmic patterns that comprise the  bomba. The instruments used to play bomba are two barrel-shaped drums, a single maraca, and a pair of sticks called cuá or fuá. The lower-pitched drum is  called the buleador, and it plays a fixed rhythm pattern. The higher-pitched drum is  called variously the subidor, primo or repicador. This is the drum that improvises  and follows the movement ("piquetes") of    the dancers.

Plena surfaced in the early 1900's in Puerto  Rico, on the south coast. Plena functions as a sort of singing newspaper in which barrio residents recount events and scandals of the day. The main instruments of plena are the panderetas (tambourine-like  hand-held drums) and the guiro (gourd scraper), but harmonic and melodic instruments have been integrated into the      style since its beginning. In the early days of plena, there were only two panderetas, but now there are customarily three. The seguidor (lower-pitched) and the punteador  or segundo (middle-pitched) establish the basic rhythm over which the requinto (high-pitched) improvises. As in bomba, plena follows a call-and-response between singer and chorus.