Saturday, August 17, 2013


The music of Costa Rica is as diverse as its people.  Geographically speaking, it makes sense that it has had a lot of influence from calypso, reggae, and other Caribbean styles of music.  It’s also been highly influenced by Mexican music as well.  Today, the younger generations listen to more British- and American-influenced rock as well. 

Some of the common instruments used in folk music include the marimba, ocarina, accordion, different types of oboes, and guitar.  Musical styles and instrumentation does vary slightly regionally.  The state of Guanacaste has the strongest folk music traditions.

Costa Rica doesn’t really have one true style that is “Costa Rican” per se, but they have taken styles that are popular elsewhere and sort of make it their own so to speak. They’ve made their mark in all different genres: classical music, jazz, rock, metal (weirdly enough, metal is pretty big in Costa Rica), and folk music.

I came across the rock band called Evolución that I like pretty much. I’ve been listening to the album Amor Artificial. They rely pretty heavy on the guitars but taking caution to not overdo it. Sometimes the music is pretty predictable but in a way, it makes it easy to listen to while working. But there are songs on the album that stand out as well.

The group Malpaís mixes a little bit of rock with some jazz and folk music as well. I like the album I’ve been listening to, Historias de Nadie. It’s different from what I expected, and I appreciate their musicianship. 

Reggae is huge in Costa Rica.  This is one of the remnants that they borrowed from the number of Jamaicans who arrived in Costa Rica for work.  One reggae musician I discovered is Michael Livingston.  I’ve been listening to the album Natural.  I really like this album.  It falls into the category that I call “chill out reggae.”  At times, it almost resembles African reggae in its style, melodic lines, and instrumentation. After doing additional research, I don't think he's actually from Costa Rica, but I think he spent a lot of time there honing his skills. He's popular there, so that's good enough for me. I like him too. 

Most of the more popular folkloric dance traditions do happen to also originate from the Guanacaste region, commonly showcased as part of the Annexation of Guanacaste holiday events.  One dance called the Punto Guanacasteco is one in which the women two-step toward their partners as they seductively dance toward the women. 

There’s another dance called La Cajeta, stemmed from the candy-making traditions of making a rich milk caramel.  This process is long, taking days to complete, so when the caramel is finally done, people dance this dance to celebrate that it was ready to eat.  And it was alsosomewhat symbolic of the sweetness of first love. In both traditional dances, the women wear long skirts with ruffles on the ends, and the hold the skirt to move it from side to side as part of the dance as well. 

Other Latin dances are also quite commonly danced in Costa Rica as well. Dances such as merengue (from the Dominican Republic), cumbia (from Colombia and Panama), and salsa (from Cuba) are enjoyed with a Costa Rican twist as well.

Up next: the food!

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