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 Puerto Rican music experience. In this short tour, let’s go back in time a few centuries and start there.


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

Pump and Plena

At the beginning of the 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 inexperienced ear they may sound somewhat similar. Bomba is especially accentuated by live dancers, and Plena became popular in the 1920s with the introduction of “big band” adaptations.

Short video (3.5min) of Bomba y Plena


Other musical genres we cannot attribute specifically to Puerto Rico, but their origins go back to Spanish, French Caribbean and African influences. In the 19th century, for example, the formal style of music “Danza” 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 – 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 featuring Tito Puente (Puerto Rico) and Celia Cruz (Cuba) – May you both rest in peace for the musical contributions they made.

Tito Puente and Celia Cruz: Salsa Video


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

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 there are the driving rhythms whose roots are in the African rhythms, and the delicate guitars that offer echoes of the jíbaro styles. To test 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 beats!