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Puerto Rican Musical Traditions


Bomba emerged from the musical traditions brought to Puerto Rico by enslaved Africans in the 17th century. Bomba instruments include several low drums or barriles, guiro scraper or a maraca, and sticks (cuá) all supporting the main rhythm. The primo or lead drum, la prima, follows the movements of the dancers. Bomba dancing is both fiery and subtle, with much emphasis on the expressive improvisations of individual dancers. Dancers may challenge the lead drummer by moving not just on the beat but at unexpected moments. Call-and-response songs add melody.


Plena is played on three frame drums, panderetas, plus guiro scraper or a maraca. Younger than bomba, it evolved in the barrios of Ponce, Puerto Rico in the early 1900s. Plena is known as “Puerto Rico’s newspaper” because songs are often topical,  commenting on notable current events or cultural themes.

Bomba, plena and other Afro Puerto Rican traditions declined during the mid-20th century as the island modernized, but recent generations have revived them. The Cepeda family has been a major force in this revival. Participation in these communal dance and music art forms fosters a sense of community and identity. Bomba de Aquí is proud to bring this revival to the large and growing Puerto Rican communities of Western Massachusetts.


Bomba de Aquí’s own invention, batuplena, mixes high-energy Brazilian samba rhythms and instruments (batucada) with Puerto Rican plena. The music is a hit at parties, weddings, and parades in the Puerto Rican community. For information on booking, contact Saul Peñalosa at 413-636-9997, or Brendalíz.