Bomba y Plena: These are percussion styles of music.
Bomba music and dance originated from West African slaves brought to the island during the 17th century to work on sugar cane plantations along the coastline of Puerto Rico. Slaves gathered in the sugar cane fields on Sundays and festive days to celebrate life, express feelings of repression, sadness, anger, and happiness through Bomba. Bomba created a sense of community for the slaves and allowed for rebellion meetings. Unlike traditional forms of music and dance, it is the Bomba dancer who sets the rhythm of the music delivered by the drummer. The dancer and drummer establish a connection, and the drummer delivers the rhythm by following the dancer’s steps. It is said that female Bomba dancers showed their underskirts while dancing to mock the 17th-century aristocratic women and their attire.
Plena develops from Bomba towards the 20th century as slaves are freed in 1873, and Puerto Rico’s political rule is transferred from Spain to the United States in 1898. Freed slaves become part of the working class, and travel to cities along the coast searching for work. It is in “barrios” in the city of Ponce where Plena is born. Bomba’s African roots mix with other musical influences from the Jibaro, Taino Indian, Europeans, and other migrant freed slaves from other Caribbean islands. This fusion of cultures creates Plena, a distinctive form of folkloric music native to Puerto Rico. Plena’s lyrics are like a sung newspaper about events and daily life occurrences.
Traditional Bomba instruments include the subidor or primo (bomba barrel or drum), maracas, and the cuá or fuá (two sticks played against the wood of the barrels or another piece of wood). Instruments used in Plena are pandero, guitar, accordion, vocals, and more recently added: güícharo, cuatro, bass, trombone, and sax.
Seis: It is the folkloric music played by Puerto Rico's country folk (jíbaro), and is rooted in music that arrived in Puerto Rico from Spain during times of colonization. Moorish and Arabic influences are recognizable in Seis given the cultures were present in Spain for nearly eight centuries. Jíbaros lived in the mountains of Puerto Rico and worked plantations, in particular coffee plantations. They'd play and dance to Seis in the afternoons and into the night after religious ceremonies during the 17th and 18th centuries. The cuatro is a Puerto Rican guitar like instrument that evolved from Spanish instruments, and is the most important instrument played in jíbaro music.
Danza: This is a Puerto Rican musical genre that resembles classical European music and waltz. Danza is born circa 1870 in Ponce, a southern city and capital of Puerto Rico at the time. A rigid Spanish country dance (contradanza) was popular during the first third of the 19th century, and was losing popularity upon the arrival of Cuban immigrants circa 1840. The new immigrants introduced their form of music (habanera) and a more rhythmic style of dance for couples which resonated with the Puerto Rican youth at the time. Puerto Rican composers adopted the habanera music and mixed it with local musical "flavors", hence Danza was born. Unlike Bomba y Plena, Danza is a high society type of dance where women wear long formal gowns, gloves, and discretely communicate to the men through signals with their hand held fans.
Other Dances: Mazurca, Polka, Vals, and Paso Doble are types of ballroom dances introduced to Puerto Rico through the Spaniards and other European immigrants. The ballroom dances were adopted by the jibaros, and the music became more Puerto Rican-like as the jibaros added local folklore with instruments such as the cuatro and guitar.
Mexican Folk: Jarocho and El baile de los viejitos. More information coming soon.