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Puerto Rican rhythms exotic yet familiar

Somos Boricuas
Somos Boricuas
By Los Pleneros de la 21

Henry Street / Rounder Records: 1996

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This review first appeared in the August 18, 1996 issue of the North County Times.

The explosion in popularity of Latin music may have been driven by Brazilian and Cuban bands, but other lesser-known styles are also getting more attention because of it. Puerto Rican music is an example, and Los Pleneros de la 21 is a heck of an exemplar of plena and bomba.

Like Cuban, Dominican, Jamaican and nealry every other Caribbean form, Puerto Rican music features a pulsating, Afro-based rhythm reflecting the influence of African slaves brought over to work on the ranchos of the conquistadors. And while the Puerto Rican rhythms are different from the more familiar (to American ears) Cuban beats, both the plena and the bomba are close enough to sound familiar – as do the call-and-response vocal refrains, and the guitar and piano solos.