Captivating and moving audiences over the course of a 24-year, 14-album career, this fine-tuned Puerto Rican-based ensemble of virtuoso musicians has only gotten better with age, as evidenced by their four recent Grammy nominations and world-wide touring schedule.
Led by founder and bassist Gary Nuñez, Plena Libre is recognized for taking the once dormant, Puerto Rican plena style of music and reclaiming it for a new generation of listeners to enjoy. The group became instantly popular in Puerto Rico, with National Geographic crediting Plena Libre among other Puerto Rican acts in “spearheading the Latin invasion of American popular music. Plena Libre features three vocalists singing in captivating three and four-part harmonies which complement the group’s danceable, Afro-Rican compositions. The group’s use of call-and-response, percussion and polyrhythms keeps each show feeling groovy and fresh.
With an aggressive, tight, yet sensitive style, which balances the traditional with the contemporary, the global and the local, Plena Libre creates a brand of music and live performance that is both profoundly Puerto Rican and universally appealing. Filtering the sounds of various Afro-Caribbean forms like merengue and cumbia, and Afro-Cuban like mambo and yes, salsa if you ask nicely through a unique set of artistic sensibilities, this versatile collection of expert performers create a celebratory spectacle and engaging sonic ecstasy. Thrilling audiences around the world, from the Fez Festival (in Morocco) to the Playboy Jazz Festival, Plena Libre is a train that just keeps picking up steam as it charges ahead in unexpected and exciting directions.
During the 2019-20 academic year, Plena Libre will visit campus for three residency weeks, offering performances with UChicago graduate student composers, the University Symphony Orchestra, and on UChicago Presents' Music Without Borders series; visiting music and Spanish language classes; participated in luncheons and panel discussions; performing for public plena and bomba dance workshops; and more. Public events include:
- Tuesday, November 5, 7:30 p.m. - Percussion Ensemble workshop in Fulton Recital Hall
- Wednesday, November 6, 7 p.m. – Bomba dance workshop at International House
- Thursday, November 7, 5:30 p.m. – Meet the Artists in Logan Gidwitz Lobby
- Thursday, November 7, 7 p.m. – Informal performance in Logan Performance Hall
- Friday, November 8, 12 p.m. – Luncheon Discussion: Rhythm as Material with Tania León, moderated by Augusta Read Thomas, Classics 110
- Thursday, March 5, 12:30 p.m. – Center for Latin American Studies luncheon at International House
- Thursday, March 5, 7 p.m. – Plena dance workshop in the Logan Center Penthouse, 9th floor
- Saturday, March 7, 8 p.m. – Concert with the University Symphony Orchestra
- Tuesday, April 28, 7 p.m. – Bomba dance workshop at the Green Line Arts Center
- Thursday, April 30, 4:30 p.m. – Tea Time Concert with percussion students
- Friday, May 1, 7:30 p.m. – Concert of new works by UChicago composers
- Sunday, May 3, 3:00 pm – Mainstage performance with UChicago Presents in Mandel Hall