Costa Rica's Afro-Caribbean beats

Afro Caribbean Steel Drums in Limon
Afro Caribbean Steel Drums in Limon

Costa Rica's diverse ethnic heritage is reflected in its music, and an important part of the country's music scene is the influence of Afro-Caribbean rhythms.

Calypso & Reggae

Fittingly, African and Caribbean music is most popular on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast. Many different African-influenced musical styles are played widely in the region, including calypso and reggae. Musicians who perform these styles add their own local twist to the music, adding a distinct Costa Rican flavor to the Trinidadian roots of calypso and the Jamaican origins of reggae.

A wide variety of instruments, dances and musical techniques contribute to the Afro-Caribbean music scene in Costa Rica. One of the most important instruments is the marimba, a xylophone-like percussion instrument first crafted by African slaves who had been brought to Central America. Unlike the marimba music found in other Central American countries, marimbas in Costa Rica are known for their subtle and elusive tunes that display more restraint than those seen elsewhere.

Afro-Caribbean music in Costa Rica is also known for its heavy use of banjos and drums. This music is also typified by sinkit, a complex rhythm played with percussion instruments. One important part of this musical tradition is the cuadrille, or maypole dance. In the cuadrille, participants dance around a large post as they hold ribbons attached to the pole's top. As the dance progress, the brightly colored ribbons become enticingly intertwined.

Music Festivals

Visitors to Costa Rica who want to celebrate the country's Afro-Caribbean musical culture can attend one of several festivals held throughout the year. One such event is the Festival of African Diaspora, which is held every year in late August. Organized by the Foundation for the Development of Art and Culture, the festival promotes African culture through performances and educational events. Held both in the capital of San Jose and the Caribbean province of Limon, the festival draws 25,000 visitors with its gospel, jazz, soul, hip-hop, reggae and socca concerts.

Another celebration that highlights the influence of African tradition on Costa Rican music is the South Caribbean Music and Arts Festival, held every year in March and April in the town of Puerto Viejo. Tourists who attend the festival can see performances of music in a range of Caribbean styles as well as dance recitals and culinary exhibitions.

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