The music of Puerto Rico: a sample of different genres

The music of Puerto Rico is the sound of its culture.

In this article we cover six musical genres and offer you five videos for a richer experience of Puerto Rican music. In this short tour, let’s go back in time a few centuries and start there.


The original folk music of the Spanish-descended mountain settlers is called jíbaro (HEE-bah-roh), which means “people of the forest” in the native language of the Taíno Indians. It consists of playing more traditional stringed instruments and emerged in the 16th and 17th centuries with Spanish settlers living in the mountains. A quick search for “jibaro music” will yield several samples of this traditional style.

pump and full

In the early 19th century, a distinctly African and French Caribbean influence began to emerge in the island’s music. Although Bomba and Plena are technically different styles, to the untrained ear they may sound somewhat similar. Bomba is especially accentuated by live dancers, and Plena was popularized in the 1920s with the introduction of “big band” adaptations.

Short Video (3.5min) of Bomba and Plena


Other musical genres cannot be attributed specifically to Puerto Rico, but we trace their origins to Spanish, Caribbean, French, and African influences. In the 1800s, for example, the formal “Danza” style of music became very popular and even influenced what has become the national anthem of “La Borinqueña.”


Salsa emerged in Cuba and Puerto Rico around the same time, in the 1950s. This style of music became an incredibly popular export to New York in the 1960s and is still enjoyed today. To pay tribute to the beautiful mix of cultures, here is a video with Tito Puente (Puerto Rico) and Celia Cruz (Cuba), may they both rest in peace for the musical contributions they made.

Tito Puente and Celia Cruz: Video Salsa


If any dance music has conquered Puerto Rico, it is reggaeton (reg-ah-TOHN). With some basis in Jamaican rhythms, it has become a mixture of reggae and rap. Many of the videos idealize youth culture and scantily clad women, so we’ll refrain from sharing a video, but you can easily search it for examples.

puerto rican pop

A great example of Puerto Rican pop music is Ricky Martin, who has achieved international stardom. And something important to note is that in some pop songs you find the driving beats whose roots are in African rhythms, and delicate guitars that offer echoes of jíbaro styles. For a taste of this genre, you can also listen to Chayanne, Noelia or Olga Tañón.

We hope this has given you a good overview of Puerto Rican music – enjoy the infectious rhythms!

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