Viento de Agua Unplugged: Materia Prima

Viento de Agua

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Viento de Agua Unplugged: Materia Prima Review

by Chris Nickson

The plena and the bomba are the roots of Puerto Rican music, and though they're classed as Afro-Puerto Rican, they've moved beyond that to be the rhythms of the island. The bomba's roots go back to the 17th century, while the plena developed in the early 20th century. Both are very percussive, as Hector "Tito" Matos and his group, Viento de Agua, show here -- in fact, the only non-percussive instrument is flute. These are people familiar with the traditions, as in the plena "El Leon." The emphasis here is definitely on the plena, although the bombas, which make up four of the 12 tracks, offer a very distinctive, rooted flavor -- Sam Charles Tanco provides a wonderful vocal on "Cucu" with a text derived from some forgotten African language. One of the greatest joys comes at the end, on "Viento de Agua Llego," which essentially deconstructs the plena rhythm, letting the listener understand how it all comes together. The performances throughout are explosive and joyful -- just listen to the requinto drums on "Quinto y Tumbador," for example. This is folkloric music that's very much alive and kicking, a living tradition that continues to grow.

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