Plena Libre


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.

UChicago Residency

During the 2019-20 academic year, Plena Libre visited campus for two residency weeks, offering performances with UChicago graduate student composers, the University Symphony Orchestra, and on UChicago Presents' Music Without Borders series; visited music and Spanish language classes; participated in luncheons and panel discussions; performed for public plena and bomba dance workshops; and more. 

Plena Libre returns to UChicago in 2021-22 to complete their 2019-20 residency with four public events:

Sunday, October 10, 3 p.m. — Plena Libre in Concert

The Latin GRAMMY-nominated musicians of Plena Libre are the contemporary masters of the high-energy, dance-infused Puerto Rican styles of plena and bomba.

Tickets: $10-30, purchase at

Tuesday, October 12, 7:30 p.m. — Dance Workshop with Ivelisse Diaz

Ivelisse Diaz, founder and director of La Escuelita Bombera De Corazon and lead vocalist of Bomba con Buya in Chicago, leads instructional workshops for dancers of all backgrounds and skill-levels accompanied by live music from Plena Libre.

Free admission. Register here.

Thursday, October 14, 12:40 p.m. — Music and Cultural Identity: A Conversation with Plena Libre

Join us for a conversation between Jessica Swanston Baker and members of Plena Libre about plena as an Afro-Caribbean musical form, an important entry point into understanding the history and cultures of the Caribbean.

Free admission. Light refreshments will be served. Register here.

Friday, October 15, 7:00 p.m. — Plenazo! A Community Celebration with Plena Libre

Los Pleneros de Don Segundo host the 4-time Grammy-nominated Plena Libre for an old school plena jam session.

Free admission with paid options for preferred seating. Proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test required. Register here


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