The Puerto Rico Project 2: Plena Libre

PLena Libre

Puerto Rico’s Four Time Grammy Award Nominee, Plena Libre Present “Amores En El Camino” (Love’s Journey)


In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the band wishes to recharge Puerto Ricans, living both on and off the island, with messages of hope, joy, and pride in our heritage, through their music.

The album is an homage to love in its many forms; love for a partner, for a friend, for a family member, for music, and of course, love for one’s homeland: this is our homage and tribute of love for Puerto Rico.

Plena Libre, the venerable, powerhouse ensemble that has helped put Puerto Rican roots music on the international musical map, delivers an explosion of musical sabor, delivering a cornucopia of melodies, rhythms and lyrics based on Afro-Rican musical traditions, with their new album “Amores en el Camino” (Love’s Journey”), to be October 28th.

The album’s release was postponed due to the recent and devastating path of Category-4 Hurricane Maria through Puerto Rico, which left the island in the dark and struggling for food, water and other supplies. While the band is eager to present their new project, it now has a new purpose.

“We have been hit hard by this natural disaster, but Puerto Ricans are resilient and happy people. This is the time for us all to unite and contribute however we can to help rebuild our confidence and rebuild our island,” says bandleader, bass player and founder Gary Nuñez. “In the most tragic and desperate moments, music is still one of the best ways to unite our people and bring happiness to all, even if just for a moment.”

Through “Amores en el Camino,” the Puerto Rican band hopes to do just that. The album pays homage to love in many forms: love for a partner, for a friend or family member, love for music and for one’s country – the album is both a tribute and an homage of our love for Puerto Rico.

More On “Amores En EL Camino”

The four-time Grammy-nominated Plena Libre brings to this album empowering poetry that reflects its theme, “Amores en el Camino” (Love’s Journey). Plena and bomba rhythms are presented by a battery of percussion, innovative hard-hitting horns, three-part vocal harmonies, and jazzy musical arrangements, while flirtingly engaging with music from across the Caribbean and Latin world.

The new album will be available for purchase on CD Baby, Amazon, ITunes, all digital platforms and select stores.

The album features original songs by a new generation of pleneros as well as the veteran, Nuñez, who together make this an essential album. It showcases a fresh take on Puerto Rican roots, yet is steeped in Plena Libre’s unique musical flavor and style. “The experience and reflections that we have encountered over our 25-year journey has given us a musical maturity that can only be achieved through an understanding that love of life and music is our greatest motivation during our journey, individually and collectively… it’s Love’s Journey (Amores en el Camino”), says Nuñez.

“With this album we emphasize the sound of the drum in the eternal dialog along with the voice and the rest of the ensemble, as we adapt elements of jazz, and other Latin and Afro-Caribbean music of our roots,” says Gary. Jazzed up, punchy horn lines meet Plena Libre’s lush, traditional vocal harmonies, and gritty, salsa-inspired arrangements taking plena gems to the next level. For example, “Lo que tiene Ella,” which incorporates trumpet player legend Luis “Perico’ Ortiz, whose solo will mesmerize you.

Bomba (seis corrido) “Bambulae” combines modern instrumentation, intense bomba drumming, and a new vocal interpretation that gives new life to this classic. Plena “A la mala no” incorporates steel drums, while adapting steel to an irresistible dance track. On tracks like “Puerto Rico” a tribute to their island home, the band motivates Boricua listeners to be proud and to keep on, despite the current hardships. All this with a touch of the island’s cuatro featuring guest artist Christian Nieves.

Jazz is also present in Solitaria, a bomba (gracimá), which includes bomba drums played by Víctor Vélez and bass solos by Gary Nuñez, sax by José “Furito” Rios and Galdy Santiago on drums. All these take you on a journey of sounds that reveals the group’s deep knowledge of a host of Afro rhythms, from Puerto Rico and beyond.

Gary Nuñez and Plena Libre pay tribute to one of their own, with “Recordando a un Amigo” in an acoustic street-savvy plena. The soulful, heartfelt song is both a tribute to and a demonstration of the the centrality of the hand drums to the musicians and the musical inspirations of its singers, Emanuel Santana and Víctor Vélez.

Other songs included are “Como te Quiero Yo,”  “A Son de Plena” and “Por la Ventana.”
Through this diversity of musical materials, the album shows off the flexibility and musicianship of Plena Libre. At the same time, the band has striven to redefine the performance possibilities for a group playing traditional Puerto Rican music. Plena Libre has performed everywhere from Morocco’s Fez Festival to the Playboy Jazz Fest and Lincoln Center.

Amores en el Camino (Love’s Journey) was made possible thanks to the contribution of the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Group Website:

Tomas Peña
A graduate of Empire State College with a dual major in journalism and Latin American studies, Tomas Peña has spent years applying his knowledge and writing skills to the promotion of great musicians. A specialist in the crossroads between jazz and Latin music, Peña has written extensively on the subject.

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