Traditional Plena Instruments
The Puerto Rican Plena is an urban topical song that first became popular with sugar workers around Ponce (South of Puerto Rico) in early 19th century. The most popular genre to evolve, the plena, blended African style drumming on frame drums on North Africa origin, call-and response singing, and topical themes similar to the Trinidadian Calypso. The plena sometimes is called a "Sung newspaper" because it is used to spread news or gossip, to criticize, protests, censure and just for enjoyment. Plena contain verses of foul lines and choruses half as long. The original Plena are always accompanied by the single headed (Panderetas or Panderos, Frame drums, guiros and Marímbola. The panderetas are of different sizes and sounds. The big one is 13 inches per circumference. The medium 10", and the small 8".
Plena - can be played solo, but best heard in a group. Three different hand drums make up the complex beat: the Punteador, which keeps the bass beat, the Seguidor, which add the main beat, and the Requinto, which is the lead drum and can improvise to the player’s liking. There can be any number of panderetas present at any time, but in the case of multiple Requintos, only one may assume lead while the others take the beats of Seguidores.
GUIRO AND SCRAPER
A Puerto Rican percussion instrument consisting of an open-ended, hollow gourd with parallel notches cut in one side. It is played by rubbing a wooden stick ("pua") along the notches to produce a ratchet-like sound.
The marímbola is a percussion instrument of Africa origin, that came to the New World by mid XIX century. In the Caribbean, the function of a harmonic bass (string) in the popular folkloric music. The marímbola appears in the rural communities and in the poorer sectors of the cities of Puerto Rico. The instrument fell in disuse around the decade of the 1950's with the appearance of the electric bass. The marimbola is made with mahogany or cedar panels. The original shape of the marímbola was square, but today there are rectangular, semicircular, octagonal and beveled forms.