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Arts, Music and Dance

jibaros, Casals Festival, decimas, coplas, Willie Colon

In music, Puerto Rico has a long tradition of folk songs and romantic ballads based on African and Spanish rhythms such as decimas or coplas. Ballads are very popular in Puerto Rico, and the most famous composer of ballads was Rafael Hernandez. His ballads, composed in the first part of the 20th century, continue to be widely sung in the United States and Latin America. Puerto Rican musicians on the island and on the mainland have contributed greatly to the creation of Latin jazz, and more recently to innovations in salsa, a genre of Latin music. Many Puerto Rican salsa musicians have experimented with a fusion of island rhythms and musical influences from the mainland, particularly from the New York City area. Among the most important of these musicians are Tito Puente and Willie Colon.

Puerto Rico also has had a rich tradition of classical music. Among the most important classical composers is Hector Campos Parsi. Classical musicians include pianists Elias Lopez Soba and Jesus Maria Sanroma. Two families in particular, the Figueroas and the Hutchinsons, have contributed several outstanding classical musicians. The most famous of all Puerto Rican classical musicians, however, is cellist Pablo Casals, who left his homeland in Spain and settled in Puerto Rico in the 1950s. Casals, whose mother was born in Puerto Rico, became the director of the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra and the Conservatory of Music. The Casals Festival, an annual two-week concert series named for him, began in 1957. It attracts artists from around the world.

Opera, ballet, and popular concerts also take place throughout the year. The Fine Arts Center in San Juan is the islandís main artistic venue.

Puerto Ricans are also dedicated to dance. In the islandís interior, the seis is the representative dance of the jibaros (peasant farmers). It is usually danced by six couples, to the accompaniment of a guitar. The bomba is the predominant dance among Afro-Puerto Ricans in coastal regions. By some accounts, it came to Puerto Rico with slaves from Africa. Bomba is played with two drums and maracas, accompanied by vocals. The refined danza is popular with Puerto Ricans of all walks of life.

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