The Music of Puerto Rico: A Sampler of Different Genres
The music of Puerto Rico is the sound of its culture.
In this article we cover six music genres and offer you five videos for a richer experience of Puerto Rican music. In this short tour, let’s go back in time a few centuries and begin there.
The original folk music of the Spanish-descendant mountain settlers is called jíbaro (HEE-bah-roh), which means « people of the forest » in the native Taíno indian language. It consists of playing more traditional stringed instruments and it emerged in the 16th and 17th centuries with the Spanish settlers who lived in the mountains. A quick search for « jibaro music » will offer various samples of this traditional style.
Bomba y Plena
Beginning in the early 19th century, a distinctly African and French Caribbean influence began to emerge in the island music. Although Bomba y Plena are technically different styles, to the untrained ear they can sound somewhat similar. Bomba is especially accentuated by live performing dancers, and Plena came to be popularized in the 1920swith the introduction of « big band » adaptations.
Short (3.5min) Bomba y Plena Video
Other music genres we cannot attribute specifically to Puerto Rico, but trace their origins from Spanish, French Caribbean, and African influences. In the 1800s, for example, the formal « Danza » style of music became very popular and even influenced what has come to be the national anthem of « La Borinqueña. »
Salsa emerged in Cuba and Puerto Rico around the same time – the 1950s. This style of music became an incredibly popular export to New York by the 1960s and is still enjoyed today. To pay homage to beautiful blend of cultures, here is a video featuring Tito Puente (Puerto Rico) and Celia Cruz (Cuba) – may they both rest in peace for the musical contributions they made.
Tito Puente and Celia Cruz: Salsa Video
If any dance music has taken Puerto Rico by storm it is reggaeton (reg-ah-TOHN). Having some basis in Jamaican rhythms, it has evolved into a blend of reggae and rap. Many of the videos idealize youth culture and scantily clad women so we will refrain from sharing a video but you can easily search for this for samples.
Puerto Rican Pop
A great example of Puerto Rican pop music is Ricky Martin, who has achieved international stardom. And something important to point out is that in some pop songs are the driving beats whose roots lie in African rhythms, and delicate guitars which offer echoes of the jíbaro stylings. For a taste of this genre, you can also listen to Chayanne, Noelia, or Olga Tañón.
We hope this has given you a good overview of Puerto Rican music – enjoy the contagious beats!