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Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I don't know how many times I have gone to weddings, gotten through the "tear fest" of the ceremony, the "mixing and mingling" of the cocktail, then the preliminary "must-haves" of the first dance and first course, only to await the "dancing". Then, when the time comes your looking at the strangers across the room wondering who will be the first one to initiate the PARTY. You hope it's not the bride and groom because then you just feel bad and the guilt sets in. Also, what if the same five people take up the dance space the entire night and you are forced to hold back that fire that is burning inside?
Well, the Caminos had the perfect solution! Having come from traditional Puerto Rican backgrounds, this couple wanted to incorporate their culture in all the details. But, getting the guests to dance had to be one of my most memorable moments of the wedding. The Caminos decided to hire a traditional Plena band. Why don't you try it? A Plena is a traditional Afro-Rican rhythm and musical genre, and Plena Libre means free-form, or liberated, plena. It is thought that the plena emerged in Puerto Rico at the end of the 19th century, with immigrants from Barbados whose song repertoire mixed, over time, with local genres to create the plena. Traditionally, plena was performed using three different-sized hand drums called panderos that were pitched low-to-high and played interlocking rhythms. The seguidor is the bass drum, laying the rhythmic foundation; the mid-pitched punteador plays a complementary pattern to the seguidor. The higher pitched requinto alternates between playing yet another complementary pattern and improvising solos that respond to the sung lyrics. The güiro (scraper) and the vocalists — with leader and chorus in call-and-response style — complete the basic ensemble. Over time, the plena took on different forms — from the simple addition of the accordion or cuatro to full orchestral variations. Musical forms aside, the plena became central to the lives and culture of migrant agricultural workers who moved from one location to another with the harvest of different crops. It was their orally transmitted newspaper, informing people of the latest, and it accompanied every celebration.
After attending this wedding, I was impressed with the way guests jumped off their seats to become a part of the action, the interaction and participation between the guests and the band, and most of all the music! Also, what I great way to burn off all those courses. I felt proud of my Puerto Rican culture that night and I think many others experienced a plethora of culture that they will take with them whenever they are asked how the Puerto Ricans throw a wedding.
Thanks Myra and Richard for letting me be a part of this experience!
Want to look into your own Plena performance at your wedding or special occasion?
Contact Ritmo! at Entre (305) 298-2380 and ask for a Plena/Bomba band.
Or, take a look at www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtOXDkfSAMI to view a plena performance.