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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America

LOS PLENEROS DE LA 21

By Bruce Miller
Published September 23, 2005

Para Todos Ustedes
Smithsonian Folkways

Much has been made of Cuba’s African roots. In fact, a quick comparison of field recordings from Afro-Cuban cult rituals and, say, Ewe drumming in southern Ghana, reveal curiously similar basic rhythms. But then there’s New York’s Puerto Rican community, with its music still rooted in the bomba and plena. Here are rhythms that developed in Afro-Rican communities in Puerto Rico’s southern coast as well as its mountains, calls-and-response indirectly connected to Cuba and the southern U.S., but ultimately nodding back to Dahomey. With thick amounts of hand drumming, guiro, cuatro and piano, Los Pleneros magnify elements of jazz, salsa and rap through a traditional Puerto Rico lens and call to mind Nuevo York’s ’70s-era vitality, preserved on labels such as Salsoul and in ensembles such as the Groupo Folklorico y Experimental Nuevayorquino. Para Todos Ustedes is part of SF’s attempt at making available “grassroots musical expressions” in New York’s Latino communities, and considering the taunt, unproduced liveliness of this disc, it’s clear that there must be plenty more where this came from.