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What Is Bomba And Plena?

JULY 5, 2002
Copyright © 2002
PUERTORICOWOW. All rights reserved.


Bomba is a folkloric music genre closely related to the coastal zones populated predominantly by Blacks, such as Loíza Aldea, Arroyo, Guayama, Ponce, Cangrejos, Mayagüez, and Cataño. The term "bomba" implies drum, dance and, chant. As a song, bomba is sung to be danced; as a dance, improvised steps are in response to the lead drum and, at the same time, challenge its beat.

There are different styles and patterns of bomba. In the southern tradition, women are the ones who sing, alternating from the bomba solo to the chorus. On the other hand, in the northern part of the island, the men sing and the bomba players sit facing the drum.

The festivities of Apostle Santiago, Patron Saint of Loíza Aldea, are an excellent space for dancing the bomba.


Plena was created in the 20th century and is one of the most popular musical genres in Puerto Rico. Within the urban context, plena mainly was cultivated in the slums, with lyrics that spoke about real life and served as a satiric or comic base that inspires the festive of the plena. The instruments typically used include panderos (jingleless tambourines), cuatros, a button accordion, guitars, güiros, marímbula, and cowbells.

In the countryside, plena is danced and sung with a cuatro, guitar, and güiro, rhythmically reinforced with maracas, bongos, and claves, while panderos rarely are used.

Plena became a popular genre during the 1920s with Manuel Jiménez Canario while, during the '50s it was César Concepción and his big band who brought the plena to high-society ballrooms.

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