Bomba and Plena with Juan and Julia
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Bomba and plena stand at the core of Afro–Puerto Rican music. They are often grouped together, but each has its own trajectory and musical identity. Bomba is said to be one of the oldest musical expressions of the Americas, dating back 500 years with direct connection to the African ancestry of slaves. Plena is a product of the early 20th century, growing amid a developing sense of Puerto Rican national identity. Both have been used to voice freedom, individuality, cultural affirmation, and even labor reform. As such, bomba and plena are considered to be the main vehicles that express Puerto Rican resistance, resilience, and pride.
Juan is the founder of Los Pleneros de la 21. Since 1983, the group has been fusing the traditional rhythms and dance of bomba and plena with contemporary and urban styles, like son, salsa, jazz, and hip-hop. The group inspired the creation of dozens of bomba and plena bands in the US. Julia is Juan’s youngest daughter. She has dedicated herself to continuing this tradition and has become a well-respected bomba and plena dancer and educator.
Meet Juan and Julia!
Introduce your students to Juan and Julia with this “Meet Juan and Julia” video. Visit the video index to watch all the videos for Juan and Julia and the other Program Four artists.
Students will learn about the rhythms and instruments used in a bomba song, and learn about the relationship of dance to music.
Students will explore the rhythms and instruments utilized in a plena song, and learn about the social context of plena music.
Resources for Teachers
The following resources provide background information about the musical genre and culture. Some are intended to be shared with students; others are for teachers who may want to explore further on their own.
- Visit losplenerosdela21.org to hear more of Juan and Julia’s and music.
- Los Pleneros de la 21 Albums:
- Plena: Marcial Reyes Arvelo, “Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico”
- Plena: Catalino “Tite” Cuet Alonso, “El Leon”
- Bomba: Traditional, “Bámbulae Sea Allá”
- Juan Bobo Goes to Work: A Puerto Rican Folk Tale, Marisa Montes