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En Pura Plena: Celebrating the Life and Loves of Tito Matos

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Smithsonian Folklife Festival
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Smithsonian Folklife Festival

The sudden passing of master plenero, percussionist, educator, and community leader Héctor René “Tito” Matos Otero left a void in Puerto Rican communities around the globe. Tito lived his life plenamente—every day he practiced, fought for, and rejoiced in plena, an Afro-Puerto Rican musical expression of drums that shares songs of collective community voice. His life’s work reimagined the landscape of plena both on and off the island during a forty-year career that included stops at the Festival and sessions recorded for Smithsonian Folkways.

This loving tribute is a journey through the many plena aesthetics Tito promoted. From Caribbean jazz fusion by Oakland-based John Santos Sextet and Friends to orchestrated plena by New York City-based Los Pleneros de la 21, you will hear how this twentieth-century-born genre plays with contemporary sounds and spaces. From the high-energy next-generation ensemble Los Pleneros de la Cresta to a collective of voices presented by Plenazo Cangrejero, you will get a glimpse of how plena continues to be celebrated on the island and in the Santurce-Cangrejo neighborhood—the place of Tito’s upbringing.

Fittingly, the evening’s host is Libertad Guerra, a community leader and long-time friend. Video clips featuring Tito’s wife and son, Mariana Reyes and Marcelo Matos, complete our affectionate tribute honoring the beauty of this Puerto Rican musical genre and the spirit of a man who loved it so. 

Real time captions of both the Spanish and English portions of this program will be provided.

This event complements the touring exhibition World on the Move: 250,000 Years of Human Migration, on view in D.C.’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library from June 18 to August 28.

**This event occurs live on the National Mall, streaming worldwide at the YouTube link above**

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