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Los Reyes De La Plena

Los Reyes De La Plena

By 1927, the demise of the silent cinema led local musicians to move in great numbers to New York City. After that year, the Grupo Ponceño and later Manuel Jiménez (Canario) y su Conjunto made the first recordings of plena. Other groups like Los Reyes de la Plena, the Grupo Ponceño, Los Borinqueños, Sexteto Flores and Grupo Antillano also made strides by producing major recordings of plenas on very similar terms. Their contract with major U.S. recording companies entailed plena’s first successful international exposure, but this required a compromise – most often, the subordination of plena and its iconic pandero to a Cuban-conjunto format, thus embracing the use of a solo voice with guitar and accordion accompaniment, but frequently gave the trumpet, bongó and clave an outstanding role. The standard three-minute limit imposed on each plena recording was in sheer contrast to the aim of having a lively musical environment where, otherwise, singers could adequately develop their improvisations, or dancers enjoyed a musical piece for as long as they wished. A major difference among the various plenas of the times lay in their thematic content. Some of them – like those by the Grupo Ponceño, Canario y su Conjunto and Los Reyes de la Plena – were tied in great part to the saga of the Great Depression as they were inspired or based on Bumbún Oppenheimer’s own plenas. Other recordings strongly alluded to a sense of nostalgia for the Puerto Rican homeland. The plena originated in Ponce around 1900. It was first heard in the neighbourhood Barriada de la Torre, whose population consisted mostly of immigrants from St. Kitts, Tortola, and St. Thomas, who had settled on the island since the late 1800s. At the beginning, sung texts were not associated with the plena, which was rendered by guitar, accordion and pandero; eventually, in 1907, singing was added. The music is generally folkloric. The music's beat and rhythm are usually played using hand drums called panderetas, but also known as panderos. The music is accompanied by a scrape gourd, the guiro. Pleneras resemble tambourines but without the jingles. These are handheld drums with stretched animal skins, usually goat skin, covering a round wooden frame. They are three different sizes of pandereta used in plena: the Tumbador (the largest of the three), the Seguidor (the medium-sized drum), and the Requinto. An advantage of this percussion arrangement is its portability, contributing to the plena's spontaneous appearance at any social gathering. Other instruments commonly heard in plena music are the cuatro, the maracas, and accordions. The fundamental melody of the plena, as in all regional Puerto Rican music, has a decided Spanish strain; it is marked in the resemblance between the plena Santa María and a song composed in the Middle Ages by Alfonso the Wise, King of Spain. The lyrics of plena songs are usually octosyllabic and assonant. Following the universal custom the theme touches upon all phases of life—romance, politics, and current events—in fact, anything which appeals to the imagination of the people, such as the arrival of a personage, a crime, a bank moratorium, or a hurricane. Plena was often called the periodico cantado or "sung newspaper" for the lower classes because it spread messages among people, similar to the corridos in Mexico. The traditional center of plena was probably San Antón, a barrio of Ponce, although the black neighborhood of Loíza is also mentioned as the heartland for the genre. Its popularity peaked in the 1920s. Plena is played throughout Puerto Rico especially during special occasions such as the Christmas season, and as the musical backdrop for civic protests, due to its traditional use as a vehicle for social commentary. Whenever plena is played the audience also joins in the singing, clapping, and dancing. As a folk genre, there have been many good composers, some well known in their day and into the present. Perhaps one of the genre's most celebrated composers and performers was Manuel Jiménez, known as 'El Canario'. Certainly, there were many others, including such greats as Ramito, Ismael Rivera, Mon Rivera (the Younger), and Rafael Cortijo. The genre has had a revival recently, as evident by the emergence of many plena bands (such as Plena Libre, Atabal , and Viento de agua) and its use in various songs, such as Ricky Martin's recent song "Pégate" and Ivy Queen's "Vamos A Celebrar". Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.
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