On Saturday, March 20 Park West Theater was filled with Puerto Rican music enthusiasts and local community members for Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center’s annual Abolition of Slavery Concert, which featured plena music performances as well as an awards ceremony in recognition of talented pleneros of Chicago.
This year’s concert marked the 20th annual celebration of the abolition of slavery in Puerto Rico by Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center (SRBCC), a Chicago institution promoting the African influence in Puerto Rican music and culture for the past 39 years. The concert opened with performances by local bomba y plena group Nuestro Tambó as well as Los Pleneritos Del Son, youth pleneros/as between the ages of 10 and 14 who traveled all the way from Puerto Rico to be a part of the celebration.
A significant part of the evening’s program was dedicated to the awards ceremony during which Mirely Rodríguez, SRBCC Program Coordinator and Agustin Maldonado, SRBCC CEO/President recognized the following plena musicians: Ismael ‘Cocolay’ Rivera González, Félix Díaz, Hector ‘Tito’ Matos, Jorge Emmanuelli Nater, Victor Emmanuelli Nater, Ángel Fuentes and Mario J. Donate Jr.
Mirely Rodríguez noted that the musicians, who were each awarded a pandereta drum inscribed with a personalized dedication, were chosen from public open nominations. “[The awards ceremony] was an opportunity to acknowledge peers that met criteria that wasn’t just about being a great musician but also doing community work,” said Rodríguez.
One of the awarded musicians Ángel Fuentes has been creating bomba y plena in the Humboldt Park community for many years as part of Nuestro Tambó, which recently released their first album, “Otras Historias de Elena.” Fuentes explained that he, along with the other musicians, were highlighted for their skill as requinto drummers (the requinto is the drum in plena that improvises over the main beat of the seguidor and punteador drums).
Fuentes first learned about bomba y plena as a 16-year-old student at ASPIRA Antonia Pantojas High School where he took Puerto Rican history and culture classes taught by AfriCaribe Director Tito Rodríguez. “I remember hearing the drums and learning that it was our [Puerto Rican] music, said Fuentes. “The drums kind of called me.”
For more information on Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center visit: www.ruizbelvis.org and for more information on Nuestro Tambó visit: www.nuestrotambo.org