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Plena Libre Rhythm
By JANETH VILARIÑO
October 15, 2002
New, new, new, everything is new for the Puerto Rican folk-music ensemble Plena Libre, who are back sporting a new record label, Latin World Music, two new members, and a new album entitled "Mi ritmo."
Forecasted to be one of the best tropical-music records of the year, "Mi ritmo" marks the ensembles ninth album to date. The innovative production is a musical masterpiece that truly demonstrates the versatility that the Grammy-nominated group is capable of and the evolution it has experienced since its beginnings in 1994. While the album stays true to its signature plena style, it incorporates other musical rhythms, such as rock, bomba sicá, salsa, and Latin jazz.
"Mi ritmo" features 11 tracks, seven written by Plena Libre founder, bassist, and singer Gary Nuñez. The discs title track is its first promotional cut. Written by Nuñez, "Mi ritmo," is an invitation to all dancers and demonstrates the natural joy of plena rhythm. The singles video was shot in historic Viejo San Juan.
The festive, lively album also boasts a romantic side, with the tracks "Mi amor" and "Traigo una pena." The first talks about the void one feels when a partner leaves and features a bongo solo by Fania All-Star member Roberto Rohena. The latter is also about loneliness yet with a lighter feel. Written jointly by Nuñez and Tito Rojas, this tune features plena rhythm, combined with various African beats performed on the batá drum by Ángel "Cachete" Maldonado.
The track "Ella tiene" is a tune that honors Puerto Rican woman. This is Plena Libres first time to record a tune completely in bomba rhythm, specifically sicá. The track "Olandera" also explores this rhythm, which Nuñez says was a natural process.
Lending his talents for the production is renowned Latin jazz musician Eddie Palmieri, who penned "Plena Plena Plena." Written intending to push the plena beat to new international heights, the song demonstrates the pride felt for this Puerto Rican folk music.
New to the Plena Libre lineup is the brother-duo of Kayvan and Kevin Vega, composers of the energetic song "En la calle." The track, about plenas natural euphoria, is the groups way of saying thank you to its fans, and is an all-out plena tune, in Plena Libre style.
Rounding out the 11-track disc are "Déjalo que Suba," "Solo tu," "Remolino de Mar," and "Vive Con Ganas." "We hope to open new frontiers and share our music with the world, because our music is your music," said Nuñez, regarding the new album.
Founded in 1994, Plena Libre is comprised of Israel Vélez, Víctor "Toro" Muñiz, Gina Villanueva, Rubén Román, Kallie Villanueva, Kevin & Kayvan Vega, Tato González, Richard Trinidad, Rafy Torres, José Cruz, and Jorge Díaz.
Their innovative approach of combining the modern with the traditional is key to the groups success. Songs like "Mañana por la mañana," "El bembé de plena," "Voy subiendo," "El cellular," and "A mi manera" are hits that marked the rebirth of the Puerto Rican rhythm.
Over the years, Plena Libre has received numerous awards and recognitions, namely "Tu Música," "Peoples Choice," and a 2001 Grammy nomination for "Best Traditional Salsa Recording." The group has performed in various cities throughout the United States, Latin America, and Europe, including Barcelona, Brussels, and Munich.
With their latest offering, "Mi ritmo," Plena Libre reaffirms its talent and ingenuity. Pick up a copy at your favorite music store.