The music of Puerto Rico has evolved as a heterogeneous and dynamic product of diverse cultural resources. The most conspicuous musical sources have been Spain and West Africa, although many aspects of Puerto Rican music reflect origins elsewhere in Europe and the Caribbean. Puerto Rican music culture today comprises a wide and rich variety of genres, ranging from essentially indigenous genres like bomba to recent hybrids like Latin trap and reggaeton.
Broadly conceived, the realm of "Puerto Rican music" should naturally comprise the music culture of the millions of people of Puerto Rican descent who have lived in the United States, and especially in New York City. Music culture in Puerto Rico during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries is poorly documented. The African people of the island used drums made of carved hardwood covered with untreated rawhide on one side, commonly made from goatskin. A popular word derived from creole to describe this drum was shukbwa , that literally means 'trunk of tree'.
As these three genres evolved in Puerto Rico and are unique to that island [ citation needed ] , they occupy a respected [ neutrality is disputed ] place in island culture, even if they are not currently as popular as contemporary musics like salsa or reggaeton. Their instruments  were relatives of the Spanish vihuela, especially the cuatro — which evolved from four single strings to five pairs of double strings —  and the lesser known tiple. Although it has largely died out in that country except the Canaries , it took root in various places in Latin America—especially Cuba and Puerto Rico—where it is sung in diverse styles.
About twenty such song-types are in common use. These are grouped into two broad categories, viz. Traditionally, the seis could accompany dancing, but this tradition has largely died out except in tourist shows and festivals. The aguinaldo texts are generally not about Christmas, and also unlike Anglo-American Christmas carols, they are generally sung by a solo with the other revelers singing chorus. In general, Christmas season is a time when traditional music—both seis and aguinaldo—is most likely to be heard.
Fortunately, many groups of Puerto Ricans are dedicated to preserving traditional music by continued practice. Historical references indicate that by the decades around plantation slaves were cultivating a music and dance genre called bomba.
All of these sources were blended into a unique sound that reflects the life of the Jibaro, the slaves, and the culture of Puerto Rico. In its call-and-response singing set to ostinato-based rhythms played on two or three squat drums barriles , bomba resembles other neo-African genres in the Caribbean.
Of clear African provenance is its format in which a single person emerges from an informal circle of singers to dance in front of the drummers, engaging the lead drummer in a sort of playful duel; after dancing for a while, that person is then replaced by another.
While various such elements can be traced to origins in Africa or elsewhere, bomba must be regarded as a local Afro-Puerto Rican creation. Its rhythms e. Giving rise to Charanga music. In Chicago Buya, and Afro Caribe have kept the tradition alive and evolving.
There has also been a strong commitment towards Bomba Fusion. Yerbabuena has brought a popular cross over appeal. Abrante y La Tribu have made fusions with Hip Hop. The dancers each challenge the drums and musicians with their movements by approaching them and performing a series of fast steps called floretea piquetes, creating a rhythmic discourse. Unlike normal dance routines, the drummers are the ones who follow the performers, and create a beat or rhythm based on their movements. Women who dance bomba often use dresses or scarfs to enhance bodily movements.
Like other such traditions, bomba is now well documented on sites like YouTube, and on a few ethnographic documentary films. Around plena emerged as a humble proletarian folk genre in the lower-class, largely Afro-Puerto Rican urban neighborhoods in San Juan, Ponce, and elsewhere. Plena subsequently came to occupy its niche in island music culture. In its quintessential form, plena is an informal, unpretentious, simple folk-song genre, in which alternating verses and refrains are sung to the accompaniment of round, often homemade frame drums called panderetas like tambourines without jingles , perhaps supplemented by accordion, guitar, or whatever other instruments might be handy.
An advantage of the percussion arrangement is its portability, contributing to the plena's spontaneous appearance at social gatherings. Other instruments commonly heard in plena music are the cuatro , the maracas , and accordions. The plena rhythm is a simple duple pattern, although a lead pandereta player might add lively syncopations.
Plena melodies tend to have an unpretentious, "folksy" simplicity. Plenas are still commonly performed in various contexts; a group of friends attending a parade or festival may bring a few panderetas and burst into song, or new words will be fitted to the familiar tunes by protesting students or striking workers which has long been a regular form of protest from occupation and slavery.
While enthusiasts might on occasion dance to a plena, plena is not characteristically oriented toward dance. In the s—30s plenas came to be commercially recorded, especially by Manuel "El Canario" Jimenez , who performed old and new songs, supplementing the traditional instruments with piano and horn arrangements.
In the s a newly envigorated plena emerged as performed by the smaller band of Rafael Cortijo and vocalist Ismael "Maelo" Rivera , attaining unprecedented popularity and modernizing the plena while recapturing its earthy vitality.
Many of Cortijo's plenas present colorful and evocative vignettes of barrio life and lent a new sort of recognition to the dynamic contribution of Afro-Puerto Ricans to the island's culture and especially music. This period represented the apogee of plena's popularity as a commercial popular music. Unfortunately, Rivera spent much of the s in prison, and the group never regained its former vigor.
Nevertheless, the extraordinary massive turnout for Cortijo's funeral in reflected the beloved singer's enduring popularity. By then, however, plena's popularity had been replaced by that of salsa, although some revivalist groups, such as Plena Libre , continue to perform in their own lively fashion, while "street" plena is also heard on various occasions. By the late s the country dance French contredanse, Spanish contradanza had come to thrive as a popular recreational dance, both in courtly and festive vernacular forms, throughout much of Europe, replacing dances such as the minuet.
By a creolized form of the genre, called contradanza, was thriving in Cuba, and the genre also appears to have been extant, in similar vernacular forms, in Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and elsewhere, although documentation is scanty.
By the s, the Cuban contradanza—increasingly referred to as danza —was flourishing both as a salon piano piece, or as a dance-band item to accompany social dancing, in a style evolving from collective figure dancing like a square dance to independent couples dancing ballroom-style like a waltz, but in duple rather than ternary rhythm.
This prohibition, however, does not seem to have had much lasting effect, and the newly invigorated genre—now more commonly referred to as "danza"—went on to flourish in distinctly local forms.
As in Cuba, these forms included the musics played by dance ensembles as well as sophisticated light-classical items for solo piano some of which could subsequently be interpreted by dance bands. By Morel Campos ' time, the Puerto Rican danza had evolved into a form quite distinct from that of its Cuban not to mention European counterparts. Particularly distinctive was its form consisting of an initial paseo , followed by two or three sections sometimes called "merengues" , which might feature an arpeggio-laden "obbligato" melody played on the tuba-like bombardino euphonium.
The danza remained vital until the s, but after that decade its appeal came to be limited to the Hispanophilic elite. During the first part of dancing danza, to the steady tempo of the music, the couples promenade around the room; during the second, with a lively rhythm, they dance in a closed ballroom position and the orchestra would begin by leading dancers in a "paseo," an elegant walk around the ballroom, giving gentlemen the opportunity to show off their lady's grace and beauty. This romantic introduction ended with a salute by the gentlemen and a curtsey from the ladies in reply.
Then, the orchestra would strike up and the couples would dance freely around the ballroom to the rhythm of the music. Much music in Puerto Rico falls outside the standard categories of "Latin music" and is better regarded as constituting varieties of "Latin world pop. Famous singers include the Despacito singer Luis Fonsi.
Puerto Rico is perhaps the single biggest center for production of reggaeton. In the early s reggaeton coalesced as a more definitive genre, using the "Dem Bow" riddim derived from a Shabba Ranks song by that name, and further resembling Jamaican dancehall in its verses sung in simple tunes and stentorian style, and its emphasis—via lyrics, videos, and artist personas—on partying, dancing, boasting, "bling," and sexuality rather than weighty social commentary.
Since women have joined this genre of music they've been underrepresented and have been fighting to change its image. Despite its success, its constant reputation highlights sexuality in the dancing, its explicit lyrics that have women screaming sexualized phrases in the background, and clothing women are presented in.
Censorship can be seen as the government's way of suppressing the people and ensuring that communication isn't strong amongst the community. Many of them have paved the way and have successful careers such as Karol G, and Natti Natasha and others. After writing raps during her youth and competing in an underground nightclub called The Noise, it led to the beginning of her musical career. Recently, there has been controversy regarding how big her female influence has been on the genre.
Ivy Queen responded saying her career paved the way for female artists to thrive in this genre. Ivy Queen has had influence on other women like Cardi B and Farina. Even men, such as Bad Bunny,  have listed her as an influence for their lyrics. Karol G is a Colombian reggaeton singer who has done collaborations with other reggaeton singers, such as J Balvin, Bad Bunny , and Maluma. She recounts how when starting her career she noticed that there weren't many opportunities for her in the genre because reggaeton was dominated by male artists.
The single, "Culpables" has been in the top 10 Hot Latin Songs for 2 consecutive weeks. Natti Natasha is a Dominican reggaeton singer who has also joined the reggeaton industry and has listed Ivy Queen as one of her influences for her music. Her single "Criminal" became very popular on YouTube with more than has 1.
There are no distinctively "Puerto Rican" features—such as singing "lelolai" or playing the cuatro—in their boleros, but it would be pointless to go on regarding the bolero solely as a "Cuban" genre; it is, of course, a Cuban genre, but since the s it has also been an international genre, including a Puerto Rican one.
The main differences are found in the musical arrangements and subject matter. Similar disagreements have been voiced about local rock bands, such as Fiel a la Vega, Puya, and Konfrontazion, that flourished in the s and s, and which continue to be very popular. The choreography of the ballroom merengue is a basic side two-step, but with a difficult twist of the hip to the right, which makes it somewhat hard to perform. The two dance partners get into a vals, or waltz-like position. The couple then side steps, which is known as a paso de la empalizada or "stick-fence step," followed by either a clockwise or counter-clockwise turn.
During all of the dance steps of the ballroom merengue, the couple never separates. The second kind of merengue is called the Figure Meringue or Merengue de Figura, and the performing couple makes individual turns without releasing the hands of the partner and still keeping the rhythm of the beat.
Forms such as the Charanga were hugely popular with Puerto Ricans and Nuyoricans who, in effect, rescued this genre which had been stagnating and limited to only Cuba in the s, giving it new life, new social significance, and many new stylistic innovations. While salsa soon became an international phenomenon, thriving in Colombia, Venezuela, and elsewhere, New York and Puerto Rico remained its two epicenters. For further information see the entry on " salsa music. The Casals Festival takes place annually in San Juan, attracting classical musicians from around the world.
Moving to the midth century a new wave of composers appeared, some of them with a significant degree of nationalism. From the s on, a fair number of musicians add to the list and, though with different styles, they all had an imposing international flavor. As social conditions and urban decay took its toll in the projects New York City during the s, blacks and Puerto Ricans were equally affected.
As a way of coping with the disarray that was taking place in New York, both Puerto Ricans and blacks worked together to collaborate on rap music that would help express their creative art. Hybridity and Identity in Latino Popular Music," many of the ways that blacks and Puerto Ricans coped with their struggles was through, "graffiti, DJing, emceeing, break dancing, and fashion—the cultural elements comprising hip-hop. It involves sketching in historical contexts and sequences, tracing traditions and antecedents, and recognizing hip-hop to be more and different than the simulated images, poses, and formulas the public discourse of media entertainment tends to reduce it to.
The decade and more of hindsight provided by the Puerto Rican involvement shows that, rather than a new musical genre and its accompanying stylistic trappings, rap constitutes a space for the articulation of social experience.
Despite the fact that Puerto Ricans had a huge impact on the rise of hip-hop during the late s, they struggled to receive credit as hip-hop was portrayed through the media as a genre that was predominantly black. Instead of switching genres, they had to find other ways to mask their cultural identities. For example, DJ Charlie Chase was one of the first Puerto Rican artists to burst onto the scene with his group, the Cold Crush Brothers , but was the only person in the original group who wasn't black.
He said that he knew he had to change his name because if he went out to perform as Carlos Mendes, he might not have gotten the credit or attention that he deserved.