Plena Libre is a 13-piece Puerto Rico-based ensemble of virtuoso musicians.

Lehman Center for the Performing Arts continues its 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, Dec. 18, 2010 at 8:00 p.m.

With four Grammy nominations and a 13-album, 15-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, N.Y. 10468. Tickets for Plena Libre and Yerbabuena can be purchased by calling the Lehman Center box office at 718.960.8833 (Mon. through Fri., 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., 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.

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.


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