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The Role Of Music In Puerto Rican Popular Culture

1600 words - 6 pages

The Role of Music in Puerto Rican Popular Culture

What is Puerto Rican music like? Where did it develop, and around when did it develop? What makes it up? These are very valid questions for someone who does not know anything about Puerto Rican music or Latin music in general. To understand Puerto Rican music and what it means to Puerto Rican people in general, you must look at the beginning.

First there are different kinds of music that can be considered Puerto Rican. In general, Salsa is considered to be Puerto Rican music of today, but a famous musician by the name of Tito Puente says he plays Cuban music. (Waxer, Oct., 29). The reason for this is that he believes Salsa originated in Cuba, and Puerto Ricans just play their music. But this is an inaccurate statement and view. Puerto Ricans have helped to develop this style of music as well as others.

Puerto Ricans travel and take and bring different sounds with them wherever they go. This is the way many of the different musics of Puerto Rico have formed and shaped.

"Musicians are workers producing tangibles products, and music itself often follows trade routes and is made up of concrete mixes that we can trace" (Glasser, 8). The island’s music is like its people, a combination of all different elements and this is why you have such styles as Bomba, Plena, and La Danzas. Some of these musical styles unfortunately had the stigma of classicism attached to them, too. But let us begin with the beginning of this century.

At the turn of this century, Puerto Rico had passed as a colony from one country (Spain) to another (United States). It was a small island that was divided by classicism, therefore it seemed like two worlds. You had the world of the wealthy Puerto Ricans who tended to be of lighter skin color, and you had world of the peasant farmers who tended to be of darker skin color. Bomba is a kind of music that originated with the slaves that were brought to Puerto Rico.

Bomba was played on big barrels that were found on the plantations, and any other thing that could be beat upon to keep a beat. In fact the word bomba means "drum". The people would take goatskin and stretch it over the mouth of the barrel. Some even added nails and screws to be able to tune them like today’s modern drums.

"Supplemented by other percussion instruments, the bomba was generally polyrhythmic and featured a complex interaction between drummers and dancers. It was characterized by an African- derived call-and-response vocal style, in which a lead singer was answered by a chorus singing in unison" (Glasser, 19).

Slaveholders actually outlawed these drums at one point because they were a way of communication for the slaves. These "talking-drums" could be heard from miles around, so the slaves were forced to hide these instruments or to develop new ones.

One can see why the elite of the island did not see Bomba as a typical Puerto Rican music. It...

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