In this essay, I will be describing and going into detail about salsa, plena, bomba, and merengue music. What really is the style of music along with the importance it has in and for the island, it belongs to. As well as the effect the music has dealing with tourism and some of the famous musicians in that style. Starting with the style of music labeled as Salsa.
There is a lot of debate when it comes to the origin of salsa music. Some say it comes from Cuba, others Puerto Rico or even New York. Even with this, salsa is still deeply rooted in Puerto Rican and Cuban culture. Salsa is one if not the most popular style of music to dance to in many Hispanic communities. According to an article titled ‘History of salsa music & dance’, salsa’s roots come from eastern Cuba, Cuban Son, and Afro-Cuban dance. In the 50’s and 60’s salsa music was transformed into the salsa we know today. Due to Cubans and Puerto Ricans moving to the United States, mostly to New York. Where they continued to develop salsa by mixing it with music from the United States. Being greatly influenced by American jazz music. It has many instruments mixed into it. Some are percussions like the cowbells and bongos. While also using a bass, guitar, violin, and even a piano. In the new age, salsa electronics can also be used. Salsa has a fast tempo and a rich musical energy.
Salsa is highly important in Cuba. Where the highly energetic music draws in many tourists. Tourists who pack up the night clubs to watch and try their hands at dancing salsa. There are many studios that help and teach you how to dance or even sing salsa. Yes, Cuba may have beautiful beaches and many touristic stops. But if you ask many of the tourists there they will say they are there for the music, salsa. Many Cubans have also said that they hope to use music like salsa to overcome political and social differences with the United States and other countries.
There are many Cuban salsa musicians. But some are Arsenio Rodríguez, Benny Moré, Bamboleo, and one of the most important, Celia Cruz. Celia Cruz was also known as the Queen of salsa music. Her voice adding a unique flavor to salsa music. Celia Crus was widely known which helped gain recognition to salsa music as well as Cuba itself.
Next, I will be talking about plena and bomba music. Plena and bomba are both rooted in Puerto Rico. Plena is a genre of Puerto Rican folk music. Usually, it is connected to the costal sides of Puerto Rico. Just like salsa, the origin of plena has many theories. The mostly used or thought of one is that it originated around 1920 in Ponce, P.R. But new research shows that it can be dated back to around 1875. Where the musical elements can be seen. But the dance elements are shown to have been rooted in Ponce.
Plena has elements of African dance and music as well. Plena gained popularity in the early 20th century. Giving the slaves and poor people the ability to express their lives musically. The lyrics are usually called “El periodico cantado” or “the living newspaper.” Because singers sing about day to day life and the happenings going on.
The dance is simple but not that important as the lyrics are. Plena also has many instruments. Some are two supporting drums, a güiro, a cuatro, and one maraca. While the main instruments are three Panderetas, or a hand-held drum, varying in sizes.
Plena is an important style of music in Puerto Rico. Because it helps keep alive the Afro-Puerto Rican side of us. Plena also helps us to keep our pride in our culture and heritage. Some great composers are Ismael Rivera, Rafael Cortijo, and Manuel A. Jimenez.
Bomba is said to be dated back to early European colonial period in Puerto Rico. To the enslaved Africans in the 17th century, bomba was a way to express politics and spirituality. The lyrics were used to convey anger and sadness. Bomba songs also served as a help to rebel and have an uprising of the slaves.
The Africans in Puerto Rico were not allowed to worship their gods so they would mix their customs with that of St. James. When festivals where in place to honor St. James they would play bomba music.
The dance elements of bomba are highly important. Instruments used in bomba music are tambors, one maraca, and sticks that are hit against a surface. Some composers and singers are Ismael Rivera, Yomo Toro, and Rafael Cortijo. Plena and bomba both affect tourism in Puerto Rico. Seeing as how there are many music festivals in Puerto Rico that attract tourists from all over. Where the main music usually played is plena and bomba. One big festival, for example, that brings many tourists is the festival of San Sebastian. Tourists love to listen and dance along to the culture rich music of plena and bomba.
Finally, I will be talking about merengue music. Merengue is often mentioned as the ‘National dance’ of the Dominican Republic. The music has some similarities with méringue from Hati but merengue is sung in Spanish and not Creole. It is also influenced by the Cuban music called ‘Upa Habanera.’ Merengue music gained recent popularity in the west but has been popular in the Dominican Republic since the 1800s.
The instruments used are an accordion, a Tambora, and a güira. Some important singers of merengue include Miriam Cruz & Las Chicas del Can, Wilfrido Vargas, Johnny Ventura and Cuco Valoy. There is also Milly Quezada who is known as the Queen of merengue. Just like plena and bomba, merengue helps tourism in the Dominican Republic with festivals. Bringing tourists from all over the world to listen to the bumping beat of merengue. This helps bring money to the island. As well as spread talk of the Dominican Republic to others in faraway places. Merengue helps to keep pride and culture to the Dominican people.
In conclusion, there are many types of music in the Caribbean but here I spoke of only four. Salsa, plena, bomba, and merengue. It was fun doing research on these four types of music. It helped me understand them more and further develop my love for these types of music. No, I may not be able to dance to them but I love listening to how rich and beautiful they sound. Or watching others dance to the rhythm. It still amazes me how something so simple as music can help in so many ways. Like how with these four types of music can help tourism in their respective islands.