Puerto Rico's music is the sound of its culture.
In this article, we cover six music genres and offer five videos for a richer Puerto Rican music experience. In this short tour, let's go back in time for a few centuries and start there.
The original folk music of the Spanish descendants of the mountain settlers is called jíbaro (HEE-bah-roh), which means "forest people" in the native Indian language Taíno. It consists of playing more traditional stringed instruments and appeared in the 16th and 17th centuries with Spanish settlers living in the mountains. A quick search for jibaro music will offer different samples of this traditional style.
Bomb y Plena
In the early 19th century, clear African and French Caribbean influence began to emerge in island music. Although Bomba y Plena are technically different styles, they may sound somewhat similar to an untrained ear. Bomb is especially emphasized by live dancers, and Plena came to be promoted in the 1920s with the introduction of big band adaptations.
Short (3.5min.) Bomb y Plena Video
Other musical genres cannot be attributed specifically to Puerto Rico, but trace their origin to Spanish, French Caribbean and African influences. In the 1800s, for example, the official music style of "Danza" became very popular and even influenced what became the national anthem of "La Borinqueña".
Salsa appeared in Cuba and Puerto Rico around the same time – the 1950s. This style of music became an incredibly popular export to New York until the 1960s and is still in use today. To pay homage to the beautiful mix of cultures, here's a video featuring Tito Puente (Puerto Rico) and Celia Cruz (Cuba) – both of whom can rest in peace because of the musical contributions they have made.
Tito Puente and Celia Cruz: Salsa video
If any dance music has taken Puerto Rico out of a storm, it's reggaeton (reg-ah-TOHN). Having some basis in Jamaican rhythms, it has become a mixture of reggae and rap. Many of the videos idealize youth culture and scarcely dressed women, so we will refrain from sharing videos, but you can easily search for samples.
Puerto Rican pop
A great example of Puerto Rican pop music is Ricky Martin, who has achieved international quality. And it is important to note that in some pop songs there are moving rhythms, whose roots lie in African rhythms, and delicate guitars that offer an echo of the jíbaro styles. You can also listen to Chaian, Noelia or Olga Tanyon to taste this genre.
We hope this gave you a good overview of Puerto Rican music – enjoy the contagious beats!