Published on July 21st, 2010 | by Mark Chesnut
VIDEO: Lively Show in San Juan Highlights 5 Types of Puerto Rican Music & Dance
Puerto Rico is a hotspot for music lovers, thanks to its diverse musical and dance traditions. An excellent place to sample five important aspects in one night is at the Le Lo Lei Festival, a weekly performance, sponsored by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company. This VIDEO highlights the impressive performance that takes place very Tuesday night, when the Guamanique dance company takes to the stage at the Castillo San Cristobal, a colonial era fort that dates to 1783. For the price of a $3 admission to this historic site, you get a lively show in a beautiful location.
Juan Ortiz, the host of the show (second from the left, above), shares some of his expertise in the video, which showcases five important basics of Puerto Rican Music and Dance:
1. Jíbaro: The show begins with a Jíbaro dance and music from the mountains of central Puerto Rico. It’s still a popular style.
2. Unique Instruments: The dance performance is backed by a talented musical group that plays typical Puerto Rican instruments, including a cuatro, the guitar-like instrument, the guiro, a hollow gourd, maracas, guitars and conga drums.
3. Bomba: Speaking of drums, one of the most striking music and dance traditions is Bomba. In the 16th century, African slaves arrived in Puerto Rico to work in the sugar cane fields, and a new musical genre — bomba — was born. Bomba requires a finely tuned communication between drummers and dancers. Traditionally, only drums and maracas were used in this musical style, and melodies are sung in a dialogue with the percussion. Female dancers raise their dresses in the style of ladies on a plantation.
4. Salsa: Salsa music and dancing is not strictly Puerto Rican, but it is nevertheless an important and popular more recent addition to the island’s music scene. And it’s included in the show. The intricate dance steps have roots in both European and African dance.
5. Plena: Developed in the city of Ponce, Plena — a style of music and dance often paired with bomba — is a fusion of Spanish and African rhythms, created by centuries of interaction and mixing of two groups. “Plena is considered to be like our musical newspaper,” explains Juan Ortíz, the shows host, because each song tells a story and relates information or news.