AfroBorinquen Music                                                                                                                                                                        Homepage

Puerto Rican music has been heavily influenced by African rhythms. The Bomba developed directly from ritual slave dances. The Plena is a blend of different cultures but relies heavily on African tradition. Both elements developed in those coastal areas with a concentration of African descendants.

Afro traits in Puerto Rican music include: collective participation in which there is no distinct line between musicians and audience. Everyone is welcomed and encouraged to participate. An emphasis on rhythm and percussion rich in melody. Widespread use of call and response.


The Bomba Puertorriqueña developed in Loíza, Puerto Rico, a town with a large concentration of African descendants. It developed from ritual dance slave celebrations in the 17th century. The name was inspired by a fairly large wooden drum or barril covered with goatskin called the "bomba." The barril were made using empty codfish barrels. The barril is the main "drum" and rhythm instrument. The musicians also use two small sticks to beat a secondady pattern on the side of the drums. Maracas are also part of the bomba percussion instruments.

Bomba participants form a dance circle and take turns in solo dance between individuals and the drum. It was at bailes de bomba that slaves celebrated baptisms, weddings, and births. Fearing rebellions slaveowners allowed the dances on Sundays only. Female Bomba dancers used their skirts to mimic and poke fun at the slave owners.

La Plena Puertorriqueña developed in Ponce approximately 100 years ago. La Plena is also known as "el periodico catao" because the songs are about currents issues. Plena musicians often poke fun at mundane everyday occurences or the antics of politicians.

The Plena rhythm has strong African roots but it is also influenced by other music genres such as Taíno, jíbaro, danzas, and other European styles.

Plena instruments include a large tambourine like instrument called pandero. A pandero is a very short drum that looks like a tambourine without jingles, and bigger in diameter than a tambourine. The pandero was introduced in Spain by the Moors.