From the 1989 Festival of American Folklife series of concerts held by the Smithsonian comes this small collection of traditional Puerto Rican music as part of the Caribbean contingent attending the festival. The two bands featured on the album are Marcial Reyes y Sus Pleneros de Bayamon, which contributes a number of plenas and bombas, and los Cuerdas de Borinquen, who provide straightforward jibaro music, with the addition of an electric bass and a pair of bongos. Marcial Reyes is a displaced Puerto Rican hailing from New York, and a prolific composer of plenas, short songs based on the news of the day, history, gossip, and the like. The bombas are related, but with a heavier emphasis on the drumming, due in part to their closer link to West African traditions. Los Cuerdas de Borinquen are a jibaro group, performing what is essentially rural music, laden with the sound of the cuatros. The instrumentation is relatively simple, with vocals soaring over the top of the band throughout. Together, these two groups provide a nice look into the musical traditions of Puerto Rico beyond the material provided by the number of Latin wave bandwagon jumpers. Pick it up for a nice glimpse into the musical culture of the island, but not expecting anything along the lines of Menudo or Ricky Martin.
AllMusic Review by Adam Greenberg