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Los Pleneros de la 21 (LP21), a Spanish Harlem-based ensemble that performs traditional Afro-Puerto Rican music and dance, will perform in the Stone Center Auditorium on April 20 at 7 p.m. 

LP21’s two-day residency at UNC will include two free workshops on Friday, April 19 and conclude with a performance on April 20. The program is co-sponsored by The Carolina Latina/o Collaborative.

The ensemble was founded 26 years ago in the South Bronx, NYC. The name evokes the place of origin of its members, the Parada 21 (Bus Stop 21). The Parada 21 was a predominantly black neighborhood in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where many of the islands’ bomba and plena performers resided. The term Los Pleneros means “plena practitioner/ musicians” and LP21 are considered New York’s preeminent bomba and plena musicicans. The ensemble has performed all over the world including Canada, Mexico, Cuba, Australia and the former Soviet Union.

LP21 perform two styles of Afro-Puerto Rican music; each has its own historical trajectory and musical distinctiveness. Bomba and plena are traditional Afro-Puerto Rican musical genres respectively dating back to the early 17th and 20th centuries. The music took root when Spanish colonists brought West African slaves to cultivate Puerto Rico’s sugarcane. Bomba describes a range of regional styles, rhythmic patterns and associated dance styles that were cultivated by Africans and their descendants in the context of plantation life in early colonial Puerto Rico. The musical style is highly participatory with dancers moving their bodies to the beat of a drum. Plena has a similar call-and-response fashion, but places more emphasis on lyrical narration of daily life and satirical commentary on current events. The group also integrates contemporary and traditional musical styles such as jazz, salsa, rock and rap in its performances.

The Stone Center brought LP21 to UNC in 2009 as part of the Carolina Creative Campus Initiative, a year-long University-wide project initiated by the Office of the Executive Director for the Arts. This year’s program also received funding from the office via the Performing Arts Special Activities Fund.

The April 19, 7 p.m. workshop is free and open to the public, but space is limited. RSVP at or call (919) 962-9001. The April 20, 7 p.m. performance tickets are free for UNC Students with valid student ID (students must reserve tickets at the UNC Box Office) and $5 for others. Tickets go on sale March 26. Call the UNC Box office at 919-962-1449 to reserve your tickets.

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Published April 5, 2013.