‘Tuned In’ review: Release drums up attention to Puerto Rican folk music

Hijos de Agueybana's 'Agua Del Sol'

Hijos de Agueybana's "Agua Del Sol"

This is bomba, a Puerto Rican folk music originating with African slaves who were brought to the Caribbean island to work in the sugar plantations. Barrel drums are central to bomba, and they certainly commandeer the riveting ‘Agua del Sol,’ transcending language with rhythms that invigorate (‘Ven Ven,’ ‘Morenita,’ ‘Eco’) and mesmerize (‘Te Invito,’ ‘Saludo al Sol,’ ‘Orgulloso’) — and in the case of the manic ‘En La Vecinda,’ the demanding cadence is almost intimidating.

Regardless of the pace, these drums accomplish the intended mission of bomba: to drive dancers. Meanwhile, there are ritualistic vocals — generally a lead male voice engaging in back-and-forth, call-and-response declarations with a chorus. ‘Agua del Sol’ repeats a formula of pleading/blaring vocals that gets redundant, but occasionally the vocals diverge from the typical pattern, as on the sing-songy ‘Eco’ and on ‘Morenita,’ where they sound more finessed than merely chanted.

The release also incorporates plena, another form of Puerto Rican folk music, which leads to the use of percussion beyond the barrel drums. In addition, ‘Agua del Sol’ sometimes adds a little electronic veneer to its organic base, with keyboards making cameo appearances. Further departures come from the droning, post-New Age spell of opening cut ‘Saludo al Sol,’ jazz-like nuance in the title track, and a straight-up jazz version of ‘Te Invito’ to close the release.

Still, it’s all about the drums, and that message is relentlessly pounded into listeners.

In a good way.

Rating: 4 stars

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