La Bomba is played on drums in the form of casks. Tambores abarrillados, barriles de Bomba, membranophones, and the cueros are made of kid’s skin.

Two types should be distinguished, those used by Loiza Aldea, Santurce, Arroyo, Guaynilla, and the larger ones used by Ponce.

Chiviriquiton, Don Maelo RIVERA’s classical music page where the estribillo strikes up:

Su carne fue fricase
Por los cuantos cumbancheros
Luego su cuero sirvió
Para timbas y timberos

will construct the fundamanto element of the afro-boricua percussion.

To play La Bomba, the musicians sit behind the drum of the same name, while for La Plena, there are three musicians, each holding a drum in his hand.


The Bomba drums are as follows:

The basic drum or burlador or buleador.
The segundo drum maintains constant rhythm.
The soloist primo tambor, requinto or subidor accompanies the dancers.
The drumsticks, los palitos or cua, the idiophones accompanying the drums on a fixed rhythm, are played on bamboo stalks, en cascara on burrowed wood.
The maracas (indo-caribbean idiophones shack-shack) accompany the ad libitum rhythm at the beginning.


La Plena uses more European elements than the Bomba.

The three flat monomembranaophone drums, the panderetas, probably came from Jamaica, Barbados or Trinidad during waves of migration at the end of the 19th century. They belong to a family of flat drums of arabo-hispanic origin.

They are as follows:

The first or seguidor maintains the rhythm.
The second, or requinto is responsible for improvisation.
The third, segundo or punteador, a middle register drum used in counterpoints, counter-rhythms of the seguidor.

During the playing of the Plena the Puertorican güiro supports the rhythm.
And there we have the structuring of black Puertorican rhythm.
La Plena was definitely born in the black district of San Anton de Ponce. It is presented in this famous cuarteta :

La Plena que yo conozco
No es de la China ni del Japón
Porque la Plena viene de Ponce
Viene del barrio de San Antón

To belong fundamentally to our afro-caribbean musics, these two afro-boricua rhythms are classically structured when played: basic drum and soloist drum following on the steps of the dancers.
The song of this type, when developed, respects the antiphony: soloist singer or cantao and response. The three or four-voice coro callejero reinforces the eventual melody when foreign instruments are added to the Bomba and the Plena.

We see the endurance of the Spanish ‘borinquennisée-type song. The espinela framework in the cuerteta form will be used from the 1820’s.

It should be noted that the quality of the Puertorican sonores singers who, from the 1950’s, exported these musical genres (apart from Ponce and Loíza Aldea), took them from the folkloric strata in the times of Bumbún OPPENHEIMER, to the ranks of modern boricua music, thus fitting into the musical current incorrectly called Latin music.

After the bolero, the guaracha, the danza, and the lelolai, Puerto Rico boasted of both a visiting card and a passport before becoming ‘the Land of Salsa’. Without losing their status as social rallying point, and often nationalist loudspeaker within the song of protest, the Bomba and the Plena did not leave political protest to the lone seis or mapayé.

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