The majority of the music from Nicaragua is a fusion of cultures. Indigenous instruments and styles were mixed with the instruments and styles brought over from the Spanish. Throughout the years, other cultures contributed their own musical flavors to the mix. Today, pop music, has elements from all over the Caribbean, Central and South America, the US, and Europe.
Even within the country, different tribes have their own variations and styles they are known for, and different regions have their own variations based on the make up of the people. For example, the Pacific coast has more Spanish influence on the indigenous music while the North and Central regions have more of a German influence because of the people who settled there. The Caribbean coast is known for a variety of music called Palo de Mayo, which is a type of dance music performed during the festival of the same name. The Garifuna (who I talked about when I did Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras) are known for a style called Punta. And there are certain pan-Caribbean genres with origins elsewhere that are also popular in Nicaragua such reggae, soca, and reggaeton (my favorite!).
I used to play pit percussion when I was in high school and in college, so I’m pretty excited to hear that Nicaraguan music uses the marimba. It’s one of my faves. In fact, I played on a 5-octave marimba at the Woodwind Brasswind store years ago. However, the main difference is in how it’s played. They make themselves unique by playing it by sitting down and holding the instrument between the knees. Other instruments that are commonly heard in Nicaraguan music are the guitar, the guitarrilla (kind of like a mandolin), and the bass fiddle.
Festivals are great places to see traditional dance. I had already mentioned the Palo de Mayo festival. And if you read my previous post on art and literature, I mentioned a satirical theatrical performance called El Gueguense that mixes theatre, dance, and music using both indigenous and Spanish influences. Another type of dance is called folklore and typically tied to patron saints. These are also often performed at town festivals.
When it comes to today’s music in Nicaragua, I sampled several bands. The first one I listened to is Perrozompopo. I liked their music; they had a sound that reminded me of a quasi-Carlos Vives from Colombia. Their music was characterized by acoustic guitar along with melodic vocal lines, strings, percussion, and piano.
I also listened to Duo Guardabarranco. Their music seemed to fall in the same category as Perrozompopo. I liked it, but to the untrained ear, it’s hard to tell the groups apart.
To go along with that, I would also put Moisés Gadea there as well. I love Latin acoustic guitar, so I liked listening to this. While a few songs deviated in style slightly, it was highly reliant on the acoustic guitar sound.
Monroy y Surmenage is a band that has a little bit different style to their music. I’m not even sure how to describe it; underneath the rock style, it’s almost ethereal like cross between minimal trance and new age--they remind me of The Killers in a way. Yet, somehow it works. Kudos to whatever musical alchemy they’re doing.
And finally, Nicaragua has their own metal bands as well. I came across some live versions of songs by Kerfodermo. It’s a lot of screaming mixed with some singing, but it’s loud, and I kind of like it. I wish there were more of their stuff on Spotify.
I also took a listen to La Resistencia. What set them apart when I listened to them, was their use of a brass section. So, in essence, they were almost like a metal ska band – and I love this! I may have to find more of their stuff.
And now I came to Torombolo, one of Nicaragua’s hip-hop artists I listened to. There’s a definite Latin flavor to their music. And although the rhythms sometimes differ, I would venture to put it in the reggaeton category. There were several songs from the Calibre album that I enjoyed, although sometimes the music seemed almost MIDI-artificial in places.
Carlos de Nicaragua is one of their reggae musicians I came across. I love reggae, and I know there are several different styles of reggae depending on what other musical styles the musicians merge with it. But I like this style. Several of the songs I listened to reminded me of an updated Bob Marley-style of reggae.
Up next: the food