Bomba and plena are major icons of a distinctly Puerto Rican identity and are important touchstones for Puerto Ricans everywhere. Bomba is a melodic and rhythmic music and dance form that emerged during the 17th and 18th centuries among West African slaves on the sugar plantations of the Puerto Rican colony.
Plena developed in the 19th century as a fusion of bomba with other forms: elements of indigenous Taíno Indian music; the Spanish-influenced music of the rural Puerto Rican highlands called jíbaro (literally “mountain farmer”), and European and Anglophone Caribbean traditional and popular music. Plena is also called “el periódico cantado” (“the sung newspaper”) because it reports history, political commentary and the day-to-day news of the people and community. Backed by panderos (hand drums) and string instruments, plena focuses on the story, often improvised, sung by a lead singer and chorus.