La Maquina Insular
Munster Records is an independent record label from Madrid, Spain that started in the 1980s. Since the beginning its main focus has been reissues of Spanish and Latin American punk, garage, and rock music. But starting in 2002, as part of the expanding Munster group of labels, the Vampisoul imprint moved the company into reissues of New Orleans funk, 60s R&B, East Harlem boogaloo, Cuban jam sessions, Peruvian groovers, and other under appreciated genres of urban dance music. In short, some of the hippest music on the planet.
Vampisoul also frequently releases records by contemporary bands. Beginning this month, and continuing a journey Vampisoul started with it's previous ¡Saoco! compilations, the new series Saoco Now! started releasing current recordings which celebrate the legacy of key figures of Puerto Rican music from the 50s and 60s. On its second 7", they feature the first recordings by La Maquina Insular, a plena band which carries on this tradition of street music, still very much alive in Puerto Rico.
The La Maquina Insular's director, plena maestro and requinto virtuoso Héctor "Tito" Matos, is one of the leading examples of a movement that has revitalized the plena genre in Puerto Rico during the last decade, taking it back to the street corners of the island's neighborhoods.
Featuring the traditional instrumentation of tambourines, güiro, tumbandero and the back-up of a clarinet, La Máquina Insular (Héctor "Tito" Matos, Luis "Lagarto" Figueroa, Erik Noel Rosado, Guillermo "Willie" Cubero, Joksan "Joko" Ramos, Ricardo Pons) play a repertoire of classic and new plenas with the strength and rhythm typical of the best of the genre.
The 7" has two singles. Written by Tito Matos, 'Somos la plena' is a manifesto about the vitality of street and communal plena which lists the genre's great figures and iconic neighbourhoods. Sung by Luis "Lagarto" Figueroa, 'Ven a bailar' is a composition by the patriarch of bomba and plena, Rafael Cepeda, author of Cortijo y su Combo's first hit, 'El bombón de Elena', among many others. A current favourite among the new generation of pleneros, the song achieves a vintage flavour in this rendition by La Maquina Insular, worthy of such a classic title.
Plena is a genre of music, chant and dance native to Ponce, Puerto Rico. It was first heard in the neighborhood Barriada de la Torre, whose population consisted mostly of immigrants from St. Kitts, Tortola, and St. Thomas, who had settled on the island since the late 1800s. Plena was often called the periodico cantado or "sung newspaper" for the lower classes because it spread messages among people, similar to the corridos in Mexico.
La Maquina Insular and Saoco Now! prove that plena still has the ability to send a powerful message. Listen and Enjoy!