Washington D.C., USA – Smithsonian Folkways Recordings has released Para Todos Ustedes: Bomba y Plena desde Nueva York, the new album by Los Pleneros de la 21. (In translation, the title reads ‘For All of You.’) A newly recorded album of Afro-Puerto Rican traditional dance music, Para Todos Ustedes captures these masters at their peak, infusing traditional bomba and plena with contemporary influences, such as música jibara (mountain music of Puerto Rico), jazz, salsa, and rap. Los Pleneros de la 21 are widely revered for their exciting performances of
traditional Afro-Puerto Rican music. The lineup of Los Pleneros de la 21 gelled in 1983 from a group of New York street musicians. In 1996, group leader Juan “Juango” Gutierrez received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. An East Harlem grassroots institution, Los Pleneros de la 21 have performed at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, among other prestigious venues.
With origins in the African communities of 17th-century Puerto Rico, bomba is an umbrella term for a variety of regional rhythmic patterns. Played on barrel-shaped drums (barriles) with goatskin heads, bomba involves call-and-response as the highest pitch drum translates the movements of a dancer
into music. Plena proliferated among urban workers of Puerto Rico’s coastal areas starting in the early 20th century. Group members sing seriously or satirically about daily life or current events, keeping the music perpetually contemporary.
Para Todos Ustedes includes the dynamic “Chiviriquiton,” a plena with a rap. “Carmelina,” another notable track, includes three trombones, arranged and played by renowned Puerto Rican trombonist Angel “Papo” Vazquez. These two tracks show how plena can be fused with other strains of music.
This album is part of the “Tradiciones/Traditions” recording series, part of the CFCH Nuestra Musica project exploring Latino culture through music in recordings and Folklife Festival programs. This CD includes vivid photographs and extensive liner notes, by noted Latino music scholars Daniel Sheehy, Raquel Z. Rivera and Juan Gutierrez Rodriguez.