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Columbia College Chicago
Bomba y Plena

Bomba y Plena

Definition of Style

These two distinct styles developed side by side in the coastal lowlands of Puerto Rico, which was colonized by the Spanish beginning in the sixteenth century. Puerto Rico and the other Caribbean islands developed unique musical traditions that often combined Spanish language and song forms with African-derived instrumentation and rhythms. Bomba, more African-derived than plena, is frequently performed by groups of individuals and couples who sing call-and-response figures to the accompaniment of drums and percussion instruments. Plena, on the other hand, is a song form performed by accompanied singers and typically features satirical, narrative lyrics that describe an individual or an auspicious event.


Musical Examples


"Tanta vanidad", Guateque. Africa in America (Corason MTCD 115/7)


"Maquinolandera" (bomba), composed by Margarita Rivera. From the album Kalinda Kaliente by Ensemble Kalinda Chicago.


"Kara ka tis ki" (plena), composed by Efraín Ramón "Mon" Rivera. From the album Kalinda Kaliente by Ensemble Kalinda Chicago.

Introductory Bibliography

Vega-Drouet, Hector. Historical and Ethnological Survey on Probable African Origins of the Puerto Rican Bomba, Including a Description of Santiago Apostol. Ph.D. diss., Wesleyan University, 1979.

McCoy, James. The Bomba and Aguinaldo of Puerto Rico as They Have Evolved from Indigenous, African and European Cultures. Ph.D. diss., Florida State University, 1968.

Thompson, Donald, and Annie F. Thompson. Music and Dance in Puerto Rico from the Age of Columbus to Modern Times: An Annotated Bibliography. Metuchen, N.J. : Scarecrow, 1991. Covers classical, folk and popular music; excellent on early historical sources.

Selected Discography

Grupo Afro-Boricua. Bombazo (Blue Jackel BJAC #5027-2)

Cortijo, Rafael. Cortijo inmortal (Sony CD-80813)

Paracumbé. Puerto Rico también tiene... ¡tambó! (no label or number)