Music in Puerto Rico: The Sounds of the Island

Puerto Rico is located in the southeastern face of the Caribbean Sea. The island has very rich musical traditions’ history and the music in Puerto Rico is tied to an era of around hundreds years back. Forming its own sets of sounds and cultures together, Puerto Rican music embraces the inclusivity of values, rituals and traditional approach in composing music. Read on to find out about the rich cultures and traditions that underpin the music of Puerto Rico.

Different Types of Music in Puerto Rico

1. Folk Music in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rican instrument - guiro in phenix musical instrument museum

The most widely appreciated form of Puerto Rican folk music is considered to be the one created by the mountain-dwelling  people known as - jíbaros. Jíbaro is the term derived from Spanish. The ancient folk ballads describing the lifestyle of people living in the mountains are called Jibaro Music.  The music is full of feelings of nostalgia for the listeners. Typical instruments used in this form of music are guitar, bongos, guiro, clarinet and trumpet.

2. Bomba and Plena

Bomba dancers in Puerto rico

Bomba and plena are two completely different genres of music often called together as one. With roots of both forms of music based in Africa, Bomba can be simply described as a dialogue between a dancer and a drummer while Plena involves singers backed by lyrics focusing on issues of social justice and community. Bomba involved use of barrel-shaped drums covered with tightly stretched animal skins and played by hand. While, instruments used in plena include a dried gourd-shaped surface cut into parallel grooves and rubbed with a stick. It is definitely one of the most popular forms of folk music in Puerto Rico and many cultural events display this music as a source of entertainment.

3. Salsa Music

A performing salsa band

Salsa music is considered one of the flagship genres of Puerto Rico. It can be broken down as Big-band jazz music combined with Latin rhythms. It is also termed as the rhythm of the islands. This is the type of music that makes parties happening all around the globe. Originally created by the Puerto Rican community of New York, Salsa has its roots from the Cuban and the African-Caribbean music. Created with highly danceable beats and rhythms, it proves to be a very attractive form of music in Puerto Rico.

4. The Reggaeton Hybrid

Calle 13 concert performing the reggaeton hybrid music

Started in the 1990s, Reggaeton is one of the latest developments in music that happened in Puerto Rico. This genre of music is a combination of Spanish hip-hop and Jamaican-style dancehall beats. Very popular among the young population on the island, this hybrid music can easily be observed playing in nightclubs at high volumes. Rockstars of this genre like Tego Calderón, Daddy Yankee and Calle 13 all belong to Puerto Rico.

5. Classical Music in Puerto Rico

Phoenix Musical Instrument Museum Vejigante Mask and Costume

Efforts from a lot of prominent people have proved to be the reason behind the existence and development of classical music in Puerto Rico. Manuel Tavares, a composer who inspired a lot of young music aspirants to follow their talents and Juan Morel Campos, who advocated the Puerto Rican interpretation of the minuet- into a musical format commonly known as the danza. Pablo Casals was the first one to introduce Casals Music Festival in Puerto Rico wherein great musicians from around the global participate altogether and embrace the beauty of classical music. This event deepened the importance and value of classical music in Puerto Rico to great levels.

Instruments Used in Music in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rican instrument- cuatro

With the essence of the Spanish and African musical traditions, Puerto Rico’s music makes use of a variety of instruments to compose such masterpieces. The requinto, bordonua, cuatro and triple are four such instruments adapted and inspired by Spanish six strings guitar. With its very unique pitch and tone, cuatro has been the most widely used instrument to create Puerto Rican music so far. It is an instrument with 10 strings, similar to that of a guitar. Usually it is made out of solid blocks of laurel wood and is well known for its variety of unique pitches. It has also been recognized as the national instrument of Puerto Rico till today. Accompanying these there are some percussion instruments as well which are widely used like: tambours and maracas.

Have we missed out on anything you would like to know about music in Puerto Rico? Let us know in the comments below!

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