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PLENA LIBRE and YERBABUENA @ Lehman Center For The Performing Arts
(Published: December 02, 2010)

Lehman Center for the Performing Arts continues its amazing 30th Anniversary Season with a special holiday celebration with the torch bearers of Puerto Rico's plena, bomba and beyond, PLENA LIBRE and YERBABUENA, on Saturday, December 18, 2010 at 8pm. With four GRAMMY nominations and a thirteen-album, fifteen-year career, PLENA LIBRE has pushed Puerto Rican plena and bomba into the 21st century by blending contemporary cumbia, merengue, salsa and other Afro-Caribbean sounds to create a unique sofrito borinqueño. The 13-piece band has prepared a special show that will transform Lehman Center into an exciting Puerto Rican holiday celebration. YERBABUENA, comprised of musicians, singers and dancers from the New York City area who share an intense passion for the musical traditions of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, reclaims folkloric Puerto Rican music to create a vibrant sound that incorporates past, present and future.

Lehman Center for the Performing Arts is on the campus of Lehman College/CUNY at 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West, Bronx, NY 10468. Tickets for PLENA LIBRE and YERBABUENA on Saturday, December 18, 2010 at 8pm are: $45, $40, $35 and $30 and can be purchased by calling the Lehman Center box office at 718.960.8833 (Mon. through Fri., 10am-5pm, and beginning at 12 noon on the day of the concert), or through 24-hour online access at www.LehmanCenter.org. Lehman Center is accessible by #4 or D train to Bedford Park Blvd. and is off the Saw Mill River Parkway and the Major Deegan Expressway. Free on-site parking is available.

PLENA LIBRE, founded in 1994 by renowned bassist, composer, arranger and musical director Gary Nuñez, is a 13-piece Puerto Rico-based ensemble of virtuoso musicians that infuses its contemporary Caribbean compositions with the indigenous musical traditions known as plena and bomba that developed on the island of Puerto Rico over a century ago. As a 20-year-old, Nuñez began exploring his Puerto Rican heritage and realized that, although many Puerto Rican musicians were known worldwide, traditional Puerto Rican music was hardly known. He devoted himself to the music based on Puerto Rico's African heritage -- the plena and the bomba -- which were, until then, relegated to holiday get-togethers and in danger of disappearing entirely. Thus Plena Libre, or "free plena," was born. A culmination of African, Spanish, and Caribbean sounds, plena was born in the barrios (neighborhoods) of Puerto Rico in the early 20th century and soon evolved from music played solely by agricultural migrants to a popular form of social expression that recounted the daily lives of the island's inhabitants, becoming "the people's newspaper." While augmenting plena with contemporary influences such as jazz, merengue, cumbia, and mambo, Plena Libre nourishes the roots of this music by continuing to sing about relevant social issues that affect the island. The African call-and-response singing style found in the plena and bomba is present throughout many of Plena Libre's compositions. Unlike salsa bands, which usually only have two singers, Plena Libre features five vocalists singing in lush three- and four-part harmonies. With enticing Afro-Caribbean grooves that encourage even the most timid to dance with abandon, Plena Libre's visually stunning live performance is both profoundly Puerto Rican and universally captivating.

YERBABUENA, under the musical direction of singer-composer-musician Tato Torres, is part of a new generation of Boricuas (Puertoricans) that are embracing their traditional musical expressions. Conceived during the summer of 1999 at the renowned Rincón Criollo Cultural Center (aka "La Casita de Chema") in the heart of the South Bronx, the group developed out of the need for cultural expression, redefinition and re-appropriation of the Puerto Rican musical heritage by a new generation of Boricuas. For a long time, Puerto Rican musical traditions have been constricted by commercial culture and generally limited to holidays and "folkloric" presentations. While well-recognized Boricuas like Willie Colón, Marc Anthony and Ricky Martin are known worldwide for their "Latin" flavor, groups like Plena Libre and Yerbabuena have changed the way the world listens to traditional Puerto Rican music. Part of the Boricua Roots Music movement, in which Boricua musicians have combined and transformed elements of traditional and folkloric music as contemporary musical expressions, Yerbabuena promotes identity through living Puerto Rican musical traditions such as bomba, plena and música jíbara. The musicians, singers and dancers convey wholeness, harmony and the essence of the Boricuas, and the music beckons the audience to join in the singing and dance to the drums.

This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council. Lehman Center also receives support from the New York State Council on the Arts.


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