Get your dancing shoes on - Plena Libre's bringing the beat!

Plena Libre is the first show on our 10x10 Arts Series this year, and we couldn't be more excited to kick-off the series with this fun, engaging group! Plena Libre will be at Walton Arts Center on Thursday, September 20 at 7pm. We guarantee their music will have you wanting to jump out of your seat and dance along. Guess what? We anticipated that, and we've added a dance floor in our hall during the performance!

The sound of Plena Libre is the modern, forward-looking sound of Puerto Rico, yet at the same time it is firmly rooted in Puerto Rico’s musical traditions. The plena and bomba are at the core of the compositional structure of the songs and the instrumental lineup, which includes the panderos – the hand-held drums used in the traditional plena; it is also at the core of the singing style of Plena Libre’s soneros, who have been brought up on Afro-Rican sung traditions.

PanderoIf you've been following our blog, you know that we like to pick the brains of our 10x10 artists, and this year is no different! We caught up with Gary Nuñez, Founder, Director and Bass player of Plena Libre to ask him a few questions.

1. What is the difference between plena, bomba and salsa music?

They are completely different music. They have different rhythmic patterns that sustain the melodies and arrangement and singing approach. Salsa roots are Cuban. Plena and Bomba come from Puerto Rico. Bomba is actually one name under which around 20 different rhythms exist. Nevertheless, they do share a common African root as many of the music in this hemisphere like in U.S., Colombia, Mexico, Panama, etc.

2. How is plena music received in other Latin American countries?

Plena Libre’s performances and recordings, have been very well received by the public and received great reviews by the critics everywhere we've performed including, U.S., Europe, Morocco and Malaysia (check our web page for quotes).

3. What’s the one thing you want all audiences to remember about Plena Libre after the concert?

A moment of sharing, happiness and joy!

4. What’s your favorite style of Latino dance? Why? Where did you learn it?

PLENA! ! Many times over. Basic steps are simple, you can do it on your own, with your partner, or just in a choreography with a bunch of people! While doing it with your partner you can then go into more complicated steps that look great!!

5. If you had to describe your music in 3 words what would they be? Why?

New, energetic, and joyful. My approach as a composer and arranger has been and is, to keep the basic traditional rhythms, but renew them with the influences of contemporary music from the world,  thus creating a "new plena". Our music, and our shows, are full of lots of energy that starts from the stage and gets to the audience, creating a beautiful circle of energy, that in turn creates emotions of sharing and joy.

6. What is the oddest thing someone has given you during/after a performance?

Oh I'd rather not say!

7. Was there some great advice you received as you began your artistic journey?

Always follow your intuition, as source of knowledge fill with experience and not that contaminated with the rational thinking process, which should be applied later, to achieve your goals. As for music, practice, practice, and listen, listen, listen!

8. Is there a dish you love to cook when you are home?

I'm an expert on scramble eggs!!!! with cheese, ham, and a touch of ketchup ( they do that in the city of Ponce, south of Puerto Rico)

9. What profession other than yours would you most like to attempt?

I've been lucky to work in radio, press, social work, etc. during my forming years. As for another profession I really do like Law, because there’s so much good you could do for others.

10. Where’s your favorite place to travel?

Besides Puerto Rico (to know my country and its people) I do enjoy everywhere we go. It is just the experience of learning that there are so many different ways to live and see life.

11. Did you watch the Olympics? What was your favorite sport?

I did, some of the sports. Track and field (I'm a runner) because there was a Puerto Rican, that is the current world champion of the diamond league of track and field (400 meters with obstacles), Javier Culson. He was hurt when he ran, but nevertheless, got a Bronze medal.   Basketball and swimming (amazing!). 

Plena Libre - that's Gary Nunez in the white pantsI don't know about you guys, but I'm dying to know the answer to #6! Come to the show on September 20, and maybe you can find Gary during the post-show activities and see if he'll clue you in on this little secret. Hope to see you all there!