Shortly after reviewing their outstanding live album, Plena Al Salsero, I had the opportunity of experiencing Puerto Rico’s Plena Libre live at the Shakori Hills Festival in Silk Hope, North Carolina. The substantial group (I counted 10 musicians) is a percussion lover’s feast. Plena Libre uses a timbalero, a conguero and three additional percussionists who play various forms of the pandero (frame drum). In addition, the group has a set of excellent singers backed by horns, bass and keyboards.
The panderos make a huge difference to the band’s sound. What would normally sound like a great salsa band is transformed into a frenzied percussion orgy of Afro-Puerto Rican beats that blend bomba, plena, jazz and salsa.
Initially, the crowd listening to the concert was shy, but musicians encouraged dancing with their irresistible rhythms until the dance floor area was packed with young and old.
Yesterday’s concert was at the Dance Stage, but today’s concert will be at the main stage (Meadow Stage), right after Canadian folk innovators The Duhks. Don’t miss this opportunity, if you can, to appreciate one of the finest bands in the Puerto Rican musical scene. In addition to today’s concert at Shakori Hills, Plena Libre will be playing at the Richmond Folk Festival (Virginia) and a Hispanic heritage festival in Newark (New Jersey). After that, they are off to Morocco.
Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival
Date: Fri Oct. 10
Time: 9:00 p.m.
Richmond Folk Festival
Dates: Sat. Oct. 11 / time: 5:15 & 7:30 p.m.
Sun, Oct. 12 / Time: 2:00 & 5:45 p.m.
"Dia Familiar" @ The Newark Museum
Newark, New Jersey
Date: Mon, Oct. 13 / time 2:00 – 5:00 p.m.