The BomPlenazo Festival Celebrates Puerto Rican Culture

The BomPlenazo Festival Celebrates Puerto Rican Culture

For the past ten editions, the biennial BomPlenazo Festival (Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture; October 4-7, 2018) has celebrated the Puerto Rican culture of its Bronx home and created an internationally recognized space for Puerto Rico's vital Afro-Latin traditions, bomba and plena. This year, BomPlenazo features all Puerto Rico-based ensembles to support artists and their communities recovering from Hurricane Maria. Audiences will get to hear traditional and the innovative sounds from all of Puerto Rico's diverse regional styles.

"Bomba and plena are a vehicle for social expression and community memory, and we have always honored that," explains festival curator Julia Gutierrez. "As we planned this edition in the aftermath of the hurricane, we wanted to give the opportunities we have at the festival to the people who need it most. But we also followed the line of looking at representations across regions, the focuses of past festivals, and at people pushing the envelope."

BomPlenazo will create an inter-generational super-group of master bomba y plena practitioners for its closing concert (led by plenero Héctor "Tito" Matos and bombero Léro Martínez Roldán), while presenting innovators (the all-woman Ausuba; La Máquina Insular), scholars, and teachers. The mix of workshops, jam sessions, panel discussions, and high-energy concerts will show that, both here and there, Afro-Puerto Rican artistry is thriving.

BomPlenazo 2018 Concerts

October 5, 7:30 PM: classic and new plenas from Viento de Agua offshoot, La Máquina Insular, and bomba from Ausuba, whose all-female players hail from several key Puerto Rican regions.

October 6, 12 noon: stunning vocal harmonies from Plena de la R, Ponce's bomba Fusion Bomba Iyá, and La Raíz, traditional Mayagüez bomba

October 6, 7:30 PM: Puerto Rican Artists Collectives led by plenero Héctor "Tito" Matos and bombero Léro Martínez Roldán

All concerts held at Hostos' Main Theater. Box Office: 718-518-4455. More information about the events at

BomPlenazo has long relished the regional differences of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican diaspora, and this 10th edition unites them all, giving the audience a chance to savor a range of variations in bomba and plena interpretation. "To the novice ear and eye, it can be challenging to pinpoint the regional nuances, in these traditions, but they are a part of the different sounds. There are variations in how the rhythms are played, and some regions have dance styles that tend to be faster, more in your face," notes Gutierrez. "The Friday evening and Saturday afternoon concerts are defined by the ensembles, who interpret tradition based on their own backgrounds. Saturday night, we're putting together two collectives, one bomba and one plena. They will include different generations and regions and together will create a unique repertoire, a blending and negotiation between different styles."

"This is the first time we've focused solely on artists from Puerto Rico, and the first time we've asked artists to form a collective from various ensembles. It's an honor to be able to support these artists and victims of the hurricane," notes Hostos' Felix Arocho. "We've always held workshops, dinners, and panels, and believe those are very important to the festival. This year features our first craft workshop, making maracas." BomPlenazo gives the community a way to connect, and new audiences a way to taste, hear, and touch Puerto Rican tradition firsthand.

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