Appreciate the music of Costa Rica

Costa Rican Maracas
Costa Rican Maracas

One of the best ways to experience the culture of any country is through its music. Local clubs and discos are perfect informal settings to explore the sounds that are current and popular. For a more formal introduction to classical genres, churches, large concerts and music festivals are a great place to start.

Music Genres

Dance and music go hand-in-hand, especially in Latin countries. The salsa, samba, merengue and cumbia are popular styles of dance music among the older generations. Mexican music is also popular in Costa Rica, due to many years when Costa Rica was exposed to the Mexican culture. Nightclubs and local hotspots in San José and other metropolitan areas are probably the best way to really enjoy the music and take part in dance.

The place to explore the folk music of Costa Rica is in the Guanacaste province. The pre-Columbian style of music can be heard through the ocarinas and quijongos, but many modern instruments are also being utilized to explore the ceremonial songs and heritage of the past. Today’s most popular music in Costa Rica combines rock, Latin sounds, jazz and traditional folk music.

On the Caribbean coast, music is influenced by African culture. The marimba is a very popular element in this music. Costa Rica also has its own style of calypso, highly influenced by the Trinidadian style, but is a sound that is unique in the country. Another Latin genre that developed in Costa Rica is the chiqui-chiqui, which is a mixture of Latin rhythms and afro-pop style.

Metal rock bands make Costa Rica part of their tours, largely due to a highly successful Iron Maiden concert in 2008 that had more than 27,000 attendants. Costa Rica has never had an official place on the international music scene, but it does host some international rock and music concerts and festivals that draw major singers and bands.

Music Institutions

Since 1970, the National Symphony Orchestra has been a renowned institution on the music scene. From April to November, the orchestra offers public concerts in the latter part of the week, and features soloists and conductors from around the world, as well as local artists. The National Theater is home to the orchestra, but many other venues host performances of classical Costa Rican music.

Sura Chamber Choir is made up of professional singers and musicians from the country’s two universities. It was the first professional choir in Costa Rica and in Central America, and is regarded as one of the most promising choirs to have emerged from this region of the world. The universities in Costa Rica have well-structured music programs, and often have performances by student musicians. These institutions are keeping Costa Rica culture vibrant through their music presentations

International Festivals

The premier time to visit Costa Rica to appreciate its music is in August, when the International Festival of Music is being held. It’s estimated that around 2,000 musicians and artists gather in San José for this celebration of art. Although it’s designed to support and encourage the talents of local artists, famous musicians and groups from around the world attend. All forms of art are included, and exhibitions feature dance, theater, street performances and stage concerts. La Sabana Metropolitan Park is the core of the festival, but you’ll find shows throughout the city at the National Theatre, Melico Salazar Theatre, the Metropolitan Cathedral and other museums and art galleries.

Costa Rica also hosts a number of other popular music festivals, such as the 2018 International Choral Festival Costa Rica for Peace. Choirs from around the world attend this weeklong festival in June to break down barriers and extinguish differences between cultures. With the “pura vida” attitude of the Ticos and the lack of military in the country, there’s probably no better place to work for peace.

Costa Rica music is a vital part of the culture, and is the perfect way for any traveler to experience this country in an unforgettable way.

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