Artist Profiles: Plena Libre

Plena Libre in 2009

Puerto Rican ensemble Plena Libre performs a unique mix of Afro-Puerto Rican plena, salsa, bomba, jazz and other Afro-Caribbean genres.

“Más Libre,”(Freer) was released in October 2000 on RykoLatino. Their eighth recording and third for RykoLatino, came a year after their critically acclaimed “Juntos y Revueltos”. Más Libre drew from an even wider sonic vocabulary – jazz, reggae, salsa, samba, songo, bomba, merengue, and cumbia.

Since their inception in 1994, Plena Libre, led by bassist, arranger, composer and producer Gary Núñez, has become a strong force on the musical scene of Puerto Rico.

Plena Libre was born out of plena jam sessions in which Gary Núñez participated. In those sessions Gary began to focus on this rhythm that had been brushed aside by the more popular salsa and merengue. He also decided to break this genre out of its folkloric mold. Since then, Plena Libre band has been expanding the borders of plena music.

“When I was 20 years old,” remembers Gary, “I met Noel Hernandez, who is now my compadre. He opened my eyes to my Puerto Rican heritage, got me into studying my history and my musical roots. I realized then that, as much as Puerto Rican musicians were known worldwide in many fields of music, the music that was truly traditional to Puerto Rico was hardly known. I wanted to change that, to devote myself to the music that is based on our African heritage, the plena and the bomba. Up to then they were relegated to holiday get-togethers and in danger of disappearing entirely. That’s how Plena Libre, or ‘free plena’ was born.”

Plena Libre has performed hundreds of shows in Puerto Rico, and has toured in the U.S., receiving extraordinary reviews for their performances and for their recordings that have generated over 15 hit songs and sold over 150,000 copies in Puerto Rico alone.

Plena Libre became the first group to hit the charts with a plena tune in almost 15 years with “El Party” from their first recording “Juntos y Revueltos” (1994) that was re-released by RykoLatino (RLCD 1005) for the international market .

In May of 1999 Plena Libre became the first plena group to perform at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum with their unique presentation “Puerto Rico Sabe a Plena”. A crowd of over 5,000 and the critics applauded Plena Libre’s performance that was later broadcast on commercial TV.

Plena Libre

Their list of accomplishments includes an award by the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico’s Legislature (1999), “Fundación Rafael Cepeda” (1997), and an award given by Loiza, the town known as the birth place of the bomba y plena, (1995).

Discography

Juntos y Revueltos I (1994)

Cógelo que Ahí Te Va (1995)

Plena Pa’Ti (1996)

De parranda (1997)

Plena Libre Mix (1998)

Plena Libre (1999)

Juntos y Revueltos II

Más Libre (RykoLatino, 2000)

Estamos Gozando! (Times Square, 2004)

Evolucion (Times Square, 2005)

Plena Al Salsero (Times Square, 2008)

Corazón (Gn Musica, 2012)

Web Site: www.plenalibre.com

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. He was also the executive producer of the first Latino feature film made in North Carolina titled “Los sueños de Angélica.”.

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