Plena is Work, Plena is Song

by Edgardo Díaz Díaz

Plena is Work, Plena is Song
Directed by Pedro A. Rivera and Susan Zeig
1989, color, 29 minutes.

Winner of “Best Documentary” at the Festival CineSanJuan.
"...a well-crafted and enlightening recognition of a vivid folk art." - Booklist (American Library Association)

Three representative sections from the highly praised documentary Plena is Work, Plena is Song have been crafted here into exciting segments that can serve as an engrossing aide for involving students into many aspects of Puerto Rican history and culture.

Plena is an original musical style with narrative lyrics telling stories that express political ideals. It was developed in the Ponce cane fields in the early 20th century by Joselino “Bunbum” Oppenheimer and other fieldworkers, many of whom were black, and many who had emigrated from the British colonies. The style was adapted by Puerto Ricans in the diaspora to tell of their struggles for equality, justice, and better social and cultural conditions. The songs were invariably accompanied by an ensemble of tambourine-like instruments known as panderos.

Directed for Centro by Pedro A. Rivera and Susan Zeig, the special cuts of the documentary will be of heightened interest to music students because plena ensembles were structured differently, depending on cultural backgrounds, circumstances and the availability of musical instruments. For example, the fact that the European accordion was often included in plena ensembles reflected the contribution by white peasants and workers.


Uploaded - October 15, 2010.

Content credits Center for Puerto Rican Studies
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