Music of Costa Rica

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The country of Costa Rica has many kinds of music.

Music of Costa Rica Topics
Calypso Rock
Soca Rumba
Reggaeton Hip hop
Pop Cumbia
Merengue Salsa
Bachata Classical music
Tex-Mex Guanacaste
Marimba music Folklorico
Afro-Caribbean music Metal
Punk Ska
Timeline and Samples
Central American music
Belize - Costa Rica - El Salvador - Guatemala - Honduras - Nicaragua - Panama

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 such as 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 including soca, salsa, merengue, cumbia and Tex-Mex have an appeal among a somewhat older audience.

Calypso is a style of Afro-Caribbean music that originated in Trinidad and Tobago during the early to mid-19th century and eventually spread to the rest of the Caribbean Antilles and Venezuela by the mid-20th century. Its rhythms can be traced back to West African Kaiso and the arrival of French planters and their slaves from the French Antilles in the 18th century.

Trinidad The larger of the two major islands which make up the nation of Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad is the larger and more populous of the two major islands of Trinidad and Tobago. The island lies 11 km (6.8 mi) off the northeastern coast of Venezuela and sits on the continental shelf of South America. Though geographically part of the South American continent, from a socio-economic standpoint it is often referred to as the southernmost island in the Caribbean. With an area of 4,768 km2 (1,841 sq mi), it is also the fifth largest in the West Indies.

Disco music genre

Disco is a genre of dance music and a subculture that emerged in the 1970s from the United States' urban nightlife scene.


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.

Music of Mexico

The music of Mexico is very diverse and features a wide range of musical genres and performance styles. It has been influenced by a variety of cultures, most notably the culture of the indigenous peoples of Mexico and Europe. Music was an expression of Mexican nationalism, beginning in the nineteenth century.

Folk Music

Costa Rican Dance Performance Costa Rican Dance Performance.jpg
Costa Rican Dance Performance

The Caribbean coast shows a strong African influence in the complex percussion rhythms such as sinkit. Like its northerly neighbors in Central America, the marimba is a very popular instrument, and Costa Rican marimba music is very popular. In modern times, groups such as Cantares have helped to popularize 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 Nicoya Peninsula, is home to the best-known folk traditions. Along the Atlantic coast, the African musical heritage is more pronounced, and Afro-Caribbean music including rumba, calypso and reggae are popular.

Ocarina Ancient wind musical instrument

The ocarina is an ancient wind musical instrument—a type of vessel flute. Variations exist, but a typical ocarina is an enclosed space with four to twelve finger holes and a mouthpiece that projects from the body. It is traditionally made from clay or ceramic, but other materials are also used—such as plastic, wood, glass, metal, or bone.

Guanacaste Province Province in Costa Rica

Guanacaste is a province of Costa Rica located in the northwestern region of the country, along the coast of the Pacific Ocean. It borders Nicaragua to the north, Alajuela Province to the east, and Puntarenas Province to the southeast. It is the most sparsely populated of all the provinces of Costa Rica. The province covers an area of 10,141 km2 (3,915 sq mi) and as of 2010, had a population of 354,154.

Nicoya Peninsula peninsula

The Nicoya Peninsula is a peninsula on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. It is divided into two provinces: Guanacaste Province in the north, and the Puntarenas Province in the south. It is located at 10°N 85.4166667°W. It varies from 19 to 37 miles (60 km) wide and is approximately 75 miles (121 km) long, forming the largest peninsula in the country. It is known for its beaches and is a popular tourist destination.

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

Accordion Bellows-driven free-reed aerophone musical instruments

Accordions are a family of box-shaped musical instruments of the bellows-driven free-reed aerophone type, colloquially referred to as a squeezebox. A person who plays the accordion is called an accordionist. The concertina and bandoneón are related; the harmonium and American reed organ are in the same family.

Guitar fretted string instrument

The guitar is a fretted musical instrument that usually has six strings. It is typically played with both hands by strumming or plucking the strings with either a guitar pick or the finger(s)/fingernails of one hand, while simultaneously fretting with the fingers of the other hand. The sound of the vibrating strings is projected either acoustically, by means of the hollow chamber of the guitar, or through an electrical amplifier and a speaker.

Talamanca (canton) Canton in Limón, Costa Rica

Talamanca is the fourth canton in the province of Limón in Costa Rica. It is the 2nd largest of Costa Rica's 81 cantons, covering an area of 2,809.93 km2 (1,084.92 sq mi), and has a population of 32,555. The county is composed of four districts, with its capital city, Bribrí, located in the Bratsi district. Talamanca houses the largest indigenous population in the country, which is composed principally of the Bribri and Cabécar groups.

Guanacaste is the major center for Costa Rican folk music, especially pre-Columbian styles such as the Danza del Sol and Danza de la Luna of the Chorotega, who also popularized 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, but 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, Distorsión, Café con Leche, Modelo Para Armar and Inconsciente Colectivo. Some of them had fans from outside of Costa Rica, such as Editus, a Grammy winning contemporary jazz ensemble. At around that time a popular Latin genre developed, chiqui chiqui, a mixture of merengue, cumbia and other Latin rhythms along with afro-pop influences led by bands such as Los Hicsos, Jaque Mate, La Pandylla, Manantial and La Banda. After losing popularity around the 1990s, chiqui chiqui has resurfaced and established itself as one of the most popular and recognizable music among Costa Ricans, thanks in part to the release of CD re-editions of many classic hits. Some examples of Costa Rican chiqui chiqui hits are:

La BandaAvispa (Suavecito)1978
Los AbejorrosLa Fiesta1982
La BandaPanamá Me Tombé1982
La PandyllaA Comer Mamey1985
Jaque MateEl Pipiribao1985
Blanco Y NegroEl Güiri Güiri1986
Jaque MateEl Cangrejo1986
La BandaLa Pastilla Del Amor1987
La MaffiaCon Medio Peso1988
Los AlegrísimosEl Delicuente1988
La EmpresaLatino Soy-
Los HicsosEl Hula Hula-

Rock music

From the late 1990s to the 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, including Grecco, Advent of Bedlam, Corpse Garden, Catarsis Incarne, Heresy, to name but a few. The rock bands began a new standard for Costa Rican music with bands such as Time's Forgotten, Pneuma and Sight of Emptiness making highly produced albums and concerts. Also bands venturing into Reggae and Ska are popular, one example is Mekatelyu and Michael Livingston.

Costa Rica has become a centerfold for international rock and heavy metal concerts. According to sponsors and the Flight 666 documentary, Iron Maiden's 2008 Costa Rican stop of their Somewhere Back in Time World Tour was the largest in Central America, with over 27,000 attendants. Since that concert, Costa Rica is now becoming an important stop for metal bands.

Malpaís, a band emerging from the Guanacaste-area, is one of the main bands of the Costa Rican rock and music scene, mixing traditional Costa Rican folk and Latin music with jazz and rock and has met great success in Costa Rica and surrounding countries. Cantoamérica is a band led by Manuel Monestel that for many years has developed research and promotion of the music of the Costa Rican Caribbean coast. Calypso music and other caribbean sounds are included in the band's repertoire. Cantoamérica has traveled all over the world as ambassador of Afro Costa Rican music.

Music institutions

Classical music performing organizations include the Costa Rican National Symphony Orchestra (or its Spanish acronym OSN), formed in 1970, it is part of the Ministry of Culture of Costa Rica and the oldest and most important orchestra in the country. It has its headquarters in the province of San José. The orchestra has been conducted by Americans Gerald Brown and Irwin Hoffman, followed by the Japanese Chosei Komatsu. In 2014, Carl. St. Clair assumed the position as music director . The country is also home to an opera company, one of the first professional choirs in Central America, and a state-subsidized youth orchestra, which belongs to the National Symphony Orchestra. The Universidad de Costa Rica has a concert band and an orchestra, besides an early-music group and several chamber music groups.

The National University, Universidad Nacional, has a resident string quartet and a symphony orchestra, which had its very successful premiere at the National Theatre in San José on May 10, 2007, conducted by Dieter Lehnhoff. It has also a highly successful piano school led by the Russian virtuoso, Alexandr Sklioutovsky. Other well-known groups are the El Café Chorale and the Sura Chamber Choir and also the pianist Ismael Pacheco, who was the second Costa Rican pianist to have been performed at the prestigious Carnegie Hall in 2001 and also at the Musikverein in 2007 .

Both the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR), in San José, and the Universidad Nacional (UNA), in Heredia, have well-structured programmes in Music, where students can pursue bachelor's degrees in instrumental and vocal performing, composition, and conducting. The latter also has a doctoral degree in Central American Arts and Letters, with an emphasis in Music.

Contemporary composers include Mario Alfagüell, Marvin Camacho, Alejandro Cardona, Bernal Flores, Benjamín Gutiérrez, Luis Diego Herra, and Eddie Mora, to name but a few.

Costa Rican folk institutions include the Fantasía Folklorica. Every August, Costa Rica is home to an International Festival of Music.

In recent years the government, led by the Ministerio de Cultura, has aimed to revitalize traditional Costa Rican music.

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Music of Venezuela the music that Venezuela has

Several styles of the traditional music of Venezuela, such as salsa and merengue, are common to its Caribbean neighbors. Perhaps the most typical Venezuelan music is joropo, a rural form which originated in the llanos, or plains.

Music of Nicaragua is a mixture of indigenous and European, especially Spanish, influences. Musical instruments include the marimba and others that are common across Central America. Pop music includes Cuban, Brazilian, Mexican and Panamanian performers, as well as those from Europe and the United States.

The music of Guatemala is diverse. Music is played all over the country. Towns also have wind and percussion bands that play during the lent and Easter-week processions as well as on other occasions. The Garifuna people of Afro-Caribbean descent, who are spread thinly on the northeastern Caribbean coast, have their own distinct varieties of popular and folk music. Cumbia, from the Colombian variety, is also very popular. Dozens of Rock bands have emerged in the last two decades, making rock music quite popular among young people.

The music of Honduras is very varied. Punta is the main "ritmo" of Honduras with other sounds such as Caribbean salsa, merengue, reggae, and reggaeton all widely heard especially in the North, to Mexican rancheras heard in the interior rural part of the country. Honduras' capital Tegucigalpa is an important center for modern Honduran music, and is home to the College for Fine Arts.

Central American music

Central America is dominated by the popular Latin music, or Black Caribbean trends, including salsa, cumbia, mariachi, reggae, calypso and nueva canción. The countries of Central America have produced their own distinct forms of these genres such as Panamanian salsa, among others. One of the well-known forms of Central American music is punta, a style innovated by the syncretic Garifunas who live across the region, in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Belize. The marimba, a type of xylophone, is perhaps the most important folk instrument of Central America, and it is widespread throughout the region.

Culture of Costa Rica

Costa Rican culture has been heavily influenced by Spanish culture ever since the Spanish colonization of the Americas including the territory which today forms Costa Rica. Parts of the country have other strong cultural influences, including the Caribbean province of Limón and the Cordillera de Talamanca which are influenced by Jamaican immigrants and indigenous native people, respectively.

Alajuela Province Province in Costa Rica

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Juan Morel Campos Puerto Rican composer

Juan Morel Campos, sometimes erroneously spelled Juan Morell Campos, was a Puerto Rican composer, considered by many to be responsible for taking the genre of danza to its highest level. He composed over 550 musical works before he died unexpectedly at age 38.

Liberia, Costa Rica Canton in Guanacaste, Costa Rica

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University of Costa Rica public university in Costa Rica

The University of Costa Rica is a public university in the Republic of Costa Rica, in Central America. Its main campus, Ciudad Universitaria Rodrigo Facio, is located in San Pedro Montes de Oca, in the province of San José. It is the oldest, largest, and most prestigious institution of higher learning in Costa Rica, originally established as the Universidad de Santo Tomás in 1843. It is also the most important research university in the country, and Central America. Approximately 45,000 students attend UCR throughout the year.

José Capmany Costa Rican musician

José Capmany was a Costa Rican songwriter and guitarist. Along with Enrique Ramírez, he was a founder of the band "Café con Leche", a popular rock band in Costa Rica in the late 1980s. His latest release "Canciones Cotidianas" included a compilation of his work. Songs like "El Barco", "La Historia Salvaje". "La Modelo" and "Mamá y Papá" are considered folk rock music in Costa Rica. He died in a car accident on October 13, 2001.

Santa Rosa National Park national park in Costa Rica

Santa Rosa National Park, in Spanish the Parque Nacional Santa Rosa, is a national park, in Guanacaste Province, northwestern Costa Rica. It was the first national park established in Costa Rica, created in 1971.

Joaquín Gutiérrez Costa Rican writer and politician

Joaquín Gutiérrez Rangel was a Costa Rican writer who won multiple awards, and whose children's book Cocorí has been translated into ten languages. In addition to writing children's books, Gutiérrez was a chess champion, war correspondent, journalist, story-teller, translator, professor, and communist activist.

Territorial disputes of Nicaragua include the territorial dispute with Colombia over the Archipelago de San Andres y Providencia and Quita Sueno Bank. Nicaragua also has a maritime boundary dispute with Honduras in the Caribbean Sea and a boundary dispute over the Rio San Juan with Costa Rica.

Benjamín Gutiérrez Costa Rican composer

Benjamín Gutiérrez is a celebrated composer in Costa Rica. He is a conductor, composer, and pianist. Gutiérrez began by studying music with his grandmother, Rosa Jiménez Nuñez, daughter of the composer Pilar Jiménez.” Gutiérrez then studied music in Guatemala City, Boston, Ann Arbor, Aspen, and Buenos Aires. The following were several of his teachers: Ross Lee Finney, Darius Milhaud, and Alberto Ginastera. Gutiérrez has written music for piano, orchestra, violin, viola, clarinet, flute, saxophone, trombone quartet, bassoon quartet, marimba, opera, and several other instruments.

Alberto Armijo Pujol is a retired Costa Rican football striker.

María Fernández de Tinoco Costa Rican writer, archaeologist and 1st lady

María Fernández de Tinoco was a Costa Rican writer and amateur archaeologist who became the First Lady of Costa Rica in 1917. Educated in England, Fernández studied archaeology, art and music before returning to Costa Rica. Involved in amateur archaeological digs and charitable works, she wrote articles for publication in local newspapers and magazines and published two novels. When her husband staged a coup d'état and was later elected President of Costa Rica, she served as First Lady from 8 June 1917 to 20 August 1919. When he resigned from his post due to mismanagement, the couple moved to Paris, where she participated in archeological and artistic works until his death in 1931. From 1932 to 1934, she resided in Norway before returning to Costa Rica, where she resumed her archeological studies and publishing, while working for the National Museum of Costa Rica. Involved with the Red Cross, she was awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal in 1949 and in 2012, the Ministry of Culture of Costa Rica produced a documentary about her life.

Guadalupe Urbina Costa Rican singer-songwriter

Guadalupe Urbina is a Costa Rican singer-songwriter and composer. She is a folk musician whose musical compositions reflect the oral tradition of her birthplace of Guanacaste, Costa Rica. She has received the Gaviota in 1994 for her works of oral tradition.