A Quick Guide To Puerto Rican Music
Like the smell of a fresh empanadilla, the feel of tropical waters or the taste of a poolside piña colada, you’ll never forget the soundtrack of your Puerto Rico vacation.
Every restaurant, bar, alleyway and roadside seem to hum to the sound of Puerto Rican music. It can be heard everywhere. And we like it that way.
A blend of instruments, sounds and cultures, the music in Puerto Rico has hints of Caribbean, African, Spanish and Taíno influence. From salsa and merengue to plena and reggaetón, you’ll find it has a style of its own, one that’s as lively and unique as the island itself.
Musical Genres In Puerto Rico
From traditional dance music to modern radio hits, the most popular music in Puerto Rico spans across generations and styles. Depending on where you are—a festival, event, club or a simple street corner—the genre might change. But usually, it’ll be one of these well-loved Puerto Rican music styles.
One of the most popular Latin American music genres, salsa music saw its rise to fame in 1960’s New York City at the hands of Cuban and Puerto Rican musicians.
As it grew in popularity, the Afro-Cuban based genre evolved. Nearly every Latin & Caribbean nation had an influence on modern salsa but no place more so than Puerto Rico. Today, elements of traditional Puerto Rican music, like plena and bomba, are found in all types of salsa music.
Rooted in Puerto Rico’s African heritage, bomba was one of the first native musical genres of Puerto Rico. Bomba is an interactive music style that’s meant to involve the percussionists and singers as much as the dancers.
Lively and upbeat, bomba dance and music capture the spirit of the island. It’s well-worth seeking out a performance while you’re there!
Of course, we can’t talk about music in Puerto Rico without getting into reggaetón. Although rooted in Panamanian reggae, reggaetón took its modern form in none other than Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico brought elements of hip hop into more traditional reggae styles, giving shape to the ever-popular musical genre of reggaetón. Today, it’s loved all across the globe, with famous Puerto Rican musicians like Daddy Yankee and Don Omar leading the industry.
Instruments In Puerto Rico
From big, brass solos to the soft acoustics of the Spanish guitar, you’ll find a wide range of instruments in Puerto Rican music. Some, you know well; trumpets and saxophones, violin and piano.
But others have roots as deep as the island’s, and bring a distinctly Puerto Rican flavor to popular styles of Caribbean music.
Believed to be invented by Puerto Rico’s native Taíno population, maracas have become an absolute staple in both traditional and modern-day Latin and Caribbean music.
In their most basic form, maracas are made of dried gourds filled with pebbles. Their signature rattling sound is used by percussionists to add soft, melodic rhythm to songs. Simple to use, maracas are now one of the world’s most-loved musical instruments.
When the Spanish came to Puerto Rico, the guitar came with them. Native people loved the sound and quickly adapted it into new instruments with a slightly different sound. The cuatro being one of them.
Originally designed with just four strings, the modern version has five sets of double strings. Its unique shape and sound are beloved throughout Puerto Rico. In fact, it’s considered the national instrument and is most often heard in traditional music and at cultural events.
Of African origin, these small drums rose to popularity all throughout Latin America and the Caribbean in the 1900s. Today, they’re the most widespread percussion instrument in Afro-Caribbean music and can be heard in everything from international songs to local performances.
Famous Puerto Rican Musicians
We all know the song Livin’ La Vida Loca, but did you know that the artist who performs it was born in none other than San Juan, Puerto Rico? A Latin-Pop king, Ricky Martin is still one the island’s most famous modern musicians.
Other popular musicians that hail from Puerto Rico include reggaetón artist Bad Bunny, two-time Latin Grammy Award winning singer Ozuna, Despacito singer Luis Fonsi and reggatón legend, Daddy Yankee.
Music In Puerto Rico
From the traditional instruments of the Taíno to today’s global hits, Puerto Rico has always had strong cultural ties to Latin and Caribbean music. It’s just one of the things we love about the island—that no matter where you go or what you do, there’s guaranteed to be a soundtrack that’s distinctly Puerto Rican.
While visiting the island, be sure to seek out as much Puerto Rican music as possible. From live bands to dance halls, street performers to radio tunes, you can learn a lot about the island just by listening!