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Culture & People
 
 
 

Music

Though its music has achieved little international credit, Costa Rican popular music genres include: an indigenous calypso scene which is distinct from the more widely-known Trinidadian calypso sound, as well as a thriving disco audience that supports nightclubs in cities like San José. American and British rock and roll and pop are very popular and common among the youth (especially urban youth), while dance-oriented genres like soca, salsa, merengue, cumbia and Tex-Mex have an appeal among a somewhat older audience.
Mexican music is very popular among older people and some people in the countryside. During the middle years of the 20th century, Costa Rica was exposed to much Mexican cultural influence.

The Caribbean coast shows a strong African influence in the complex percussion rhythms like sinkit. Like its northerly neighbours in Central America, the marimba is a very popular instrument, and Costa Rican marimba music is very popular. In modern times, groups like Cantares have helped to popularise Costa Rican folk music, and were a leading part of the New Costa Rican Song movement.

Costa Rica's pre-Columbian population has contributed a large part of the country's folk heritage, include rare musical scales, certain ceremonial songs and ocarinas. The Guanacaste region, in the Peninsula of Nicoya, is home to the best-known folk traditions. Along the Atlantic coast, the African musical heritage is more pronounced, and Afro-Caribbean music like rumba, calypso and reggae are popular.

In most of Costa Rica, ancient instruments like ocarinas are being replaced by international instruments like accordions and guitars. There are still folk styles, even outside of Guanacaste, such as the Talamanca's Danza de los Huelos and the Boruca's Danza de los Diablitos.

Guanacaste is the major centre for Costa Rican folk music, especially pre-Columbian styles like the Danza del Sol and Danza de la Luna of the Chorotega, who also popularised the ancient quijongo (a single-string bow and gourd resonator) and native oboe, the chirimia.

Costa Rica's population never developed a major rhythm or style that became a major part of popular music, nor has Costa Rica produced a great literary or other artistic tradition. There have been exceptions, such as the Costa Rican landscape school of painting in the 1920s. The Andean peña tradition (an international gathering of like-minded persons) is strong in Costa Rica as well, introduced by immigrants from Chile and Argentina.

In the late 1980s some local artists and bands became famous for having their own style and original material, such as José Capmany, Café con Leche and Inconsciente Colectivo; some of them had fans from outside of Costa Rica, like Editus, a Grammy winning contemporary jazz ensemble. At around that time a popular Latin genre developed, chiqui-chiqui as it was known, led by bands such as Los Hicsos and La Banda. Chiqui-chiqui was mostly a commercial and easy approach to music and soon disappeared.

From the late 90's to present time, there has emerged a newer local rock style led by bands such as Gandhi, Evolución, Tango India, Suite Doble, Alma Bohemia, and Kadeho, all of which have been accepted positively by Costa Rican youths. There are Metal bands, like Insano, Deznuke, December's Cold Winter and Cold, to name but a few. Also bands venturing into Reggae and Ska are popular, one example being Mekatelyu.
Malpaís, a band emerging from the Guanacaste-area, is one of the central bands of the Costa Rican rock and music scene of today, mixing traditional Costa Rican folk and Latin music with jazz and rock and has met great success in Costa Rica and surrounding countries.

For all the fanfarre of rock, electronic or world music, Latin music is somehow the most common music genre in some specific sectors, and visitors will find that most Costa Ricans of certain generations favor Latin music (Cuban, Mexican and Colombian).

Traditional Dance

Guanacaste is the heartland of Costa Rican folkloric music and dancing. Here, even such pre-Columbian instruments as the chirimia (oboe) and quijongo (a single-string bow with gourd resonator) popularised by the Chorotega Indians are still used as backing for traditional Chorotega dances such as the Danza del Sol and Danza de la Luna. The more familiar Cambute and Botijuela Tamborito--blurring flurries of voluminous frilly lace skirts accompanied by tossing of scarves, a fanning of hats, and loud lusty yelps from the men--are usually performed on behalf of tourists rather than at native turnos (fiestas).


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