Puerto Rican Christmas music has experienced a stylistic diversification from villancicos to boleros, tunas, and salsa. Modern day parrandas in Puerto Rico are based in singing popular music recorded from the 1960s to the 1980s, that allude to the Puerto Rican Christmas tradition and convey intense celebration and festivity. Those commercial songs came from many Tuna groups that were popular during that period.
What is a Tuna?
A tuna was originally a group of university students in traditional university dress who played traditional instruments and sung serenades. The tradition originated in Spain and Portugal in the 13th century as a means of students to earn money or food. In Puerto Rico, members of a tuna (or “tunos”) are not necessarily students, nor they have to sing for money nor food. Tunos are mostly seeking to keep a tradition alive for fun, to travel a lot and to meet new people.
The tuna became a popular choice for Christmas songs because, being a serenading tradition, it resembled the original aguinaldos sung by jíbaros.
Popular Tuna Performers from 1960s to 1980s
Santo y su Tuna de San Juan
Los Cantores de Bayamón
Profile: La Tuna de Cayey
The group was founded on October 15, 1964 by a group of teachers and students of the Benjamin Harrison School in Cayey. Teachers included Juan Ángel Nogueras, Víctor Vazquez and Manuel Rodríguez. Through the years, this Tuna has reaffirmed its commitment to folklore and the Puerto Rican culture, and it has increased the typical Christmas repertoire.” “El Sopón”, “La Gata”, “Puerca Sinverguenza”, and “Son borinqueño” are songs that are etched in the Puerto Rican popular repertoire, and are as popular today as when they premiered in the late 1960s.
To review song, lyrics and discography information about La Tuna de Cayey, click here.
Profile: Vicente Caratini and Los Cantores de San Juan
The group was formed by Vicente Caratini after he organized members of a former tuna to record Christmas sung. The group had so much synergy that they decided to stay together and continue to perform as Los Cantores de San Juan. One of the songs in their first recording “Si no me dan de beber” became a classic Christmas song that has been recorded in many productions over time, even by artists from other countries, such as Marco Antonio Muñiz. With the participation of Herminio De Jesús Figueroa, perhaps one of the most prolific and successful parranda composers, the group went on to record songs that became commercial hits, year after year.
To review song, lyrics and discography information about Los Cantores de San Juan, click here.
Parranda: A Puerto Rican Music Christmas Tradition
La Parranda Puertorriqueña: Music, Symbolism, and Cultural Nationalism of Puerto Rico’s Christmas Serenading Tradition.