By AnaMaria Bech
En español>>Plena Libre: Celebrando a Puerto Rico
The city of New Orleans celebrated the music and culture of Puerto Rico within the framework of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage. The beautiful island of enchantment shares similarities with the most Caribbean city in the continental United States. Bringing artists and musicians from Puerto Rico to a festival that celebrates diversity is something special for the organizers of Jazz Fest. Puerto Rican residents in Louisiana felt identified thanks to several shows and cultural displays inside the Puerto Rico pavilion.
For Ingrid Casanova, a Puerto Rican who resides in New Orleans and who visited the Puerto Rico Cultural Exchange Pavilion, it was special to celebrate both of her cultures.
“It feels amazing because New Orleans is so similar in culture…Is a city full of culture and tradition, just like Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is full of music and food, so we are very similar. After [Hurricane] María, I came to live here, but I felt that I was not alone. I feel that New Orleans is part of my life, so I am celebrating this interaction between what is Louisiana and Puerto Rico, which is spectacular.”
One of the guest bands in the Cultural Exchange Pavillion was Plena Libre, which combines the traditional Plena and Bomba rhythms with other Afro-Caribbean styles and jazz to create a contagious dance music that honors the group’s deep sense of the unique indigenous musical traditions while embracing modern sounds. We talked with Víctor Vélez, singer and main percussionist of Plena Libre, about his experience in New Orleans and at Jazz Fest:
How did you feel about participating in the Jazz Festival and being in New Orleans for two weeks?
Apart from all the functions, variety, and diversity of artists from different parts of the world, the treatment, the people, the food, everything is spectacular. Playing with Plena Libre felt spectacular. It is my duty to be part of this band and much more when representing Puerto Rico outside of Puerto Rico.
How does it feel to see Puerto Rican culture celebrated at this festival?
Seeing the culture of the island is exalted here is very important. The reality is that we need more festivals like these where we can take our music, not just to New Orleans but around the world.
Did you have a chance to perform multiple times?
Besides being the vocal leader and percussionist in Plena Libre, I sing with the Bomba group Tambuye, which was also invited to represent Puerto Rico. I also play and sing with La Casa de la Plena Tito Matos, so we participated in the parades.