Much like the Mambo or the Guaguanco, Pilon, the two measure Afro Cuban pattern has both a signature conga pattern and also a signature timbale melody. When adapted to the drum set, the snare hand commonly plays the timbale pattern while the feet and ride hand play repetitive patterns. The drum set pattern itself has similarities to Cumbia, though the roots of the two styles are not related. The pattern is based on a 2-3 son clave rhythm (not usually played by a drum set player).
The tempo is quarter note = one hundred seventy two to two hundred twenty two beats per minute. Plena ("full") blossomed in Puerto Rico during the latter part of the 1880s, most notably in and around the city of Ponce. Much like Bomba (Puerto Rico's most popular musical style), Plena's roots are in the slaves, sugar cane laborers, farmers and others who migrated to the urban areas of Puerto Rico. The style incorporates characteristics of many cultures, including West African, Spanish, Cuban, and even European. Plena is often referred to as "el periodico cantado" ("the sung news paper") because its lyrical content reflects local daily news and gossip, and regional historical events.
The genre is a dance related style which has gained popularity throughout Central America. Many instruments have contributed to the sound of Plena, percussion instruments such as congas, timbales, maracas, guiros, and panderos (similar to a small tambourine minus the metal jingles), as well as the accordion, the cuatro (four stringed guitar), and often, large orchestras all contributed to the sound of Plena. Though not an original Afro Cuban style, Plena influences and sections are frequently found in contemporary Afro Cuban arrangements. Joselino "Bumbum" Oppenheimer is "the father of Plena," while composer Gary Nunez and bands such as Los Pleneros de la Twenty One and Los Pleneros del Batey have contributed to the development of this style.
There is no standard drum set or percussive rhythm for Plena. A strong characteristic is the simple, quarter note bass drum pattern found in the rhythm and the variation of the rhythmic pattern is appropriate when playing without a conga player. The variation (Soca) is best used when a conga player is present. Notice that the Soca rhythm is only one bar long, and is counted and felt in a medium 4/4 pulse, which takes the same time as playing two bars of a Plena rhythm. Though it's a two measure pattern, the clave rhythm is not usually played in Plena. Plena makes use of a characteristic rhythm which emphasizes beats one and three and is organized into a pattern which suggests it may have grown into a relationship with the Merengue of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Today, the rhythm of the Plena has been adapted to the music of the bands which play in the larger cities of Puerto Rico and compositions in the Plena rhythms are arranged in a style similar to that used for other forms of Afro Caribbean music. The tempo range is usually swift at quarter note two hundred and eight to two hundred seventy six beats per minute.
By Eric Starg. Eric is playing Remo Drum Heads, various Snare Drums and prefers ATA Drum Cases. Eric is an active member of Drum Solo Artist where he is answering drum related questions, and helping drummers with tips and advices.