About The Band
Bomba y Plena - What is it?
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