The call-and-response in copla-estribillo cycles

by Edgardo Díaz

Like many Afro-Caribbean expressions, plena features a choir in charge of a refrain or estribillo and a singer improvising coplas. Once the singer presents a refrain at the beginning, the choir retakes and repeats the phrase as a response, much like the montuno does in a Cuban son after a solo singer makes his/her solo appearance. The refrain is repeated after every improvised copla. Therefore, each plena generally comprises a series of repeated copla-estribillo cycles. It takes as many cycles as needed to complete a story. Within the call-and response form, plenas often show contrasting melodic themes for soloist and choir, as in the popular theme “Tanta vanidad” (performed by Canario y su grupo) whose refrain or estribillo is introduced by the choir itself. The following transcription is an example of the first of several quatrain-refrain cycles in this recording after the choir introduces the refrain:

Tanta Vanidad

Uploaded - October 15, 2010.

Content credits Center for Puerto Rican Studies
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