Tierra Seca in Guanacaste
Max Goldemberg and Odilon Juarez were both born into musical families from the Guanacaste province in Costa Rica. They have been playing music together, trading songs, for most of their lives. For the sake of preserving some of the musical legacy of the area, they recorded a live set of their music with some of their musician friends and family and really didn’t think any more about it. It was the first time they have recorded any of their musical escapades. Some of the musicians in attendance went on to create the highly popular Costa Rican band Malpais, a staple with Papaya Music. Recently, Papaya uncovered this nugget and decided to dust it off and share it with a bigger audience.
The result is titled Tierra Seca and it is a fifteen song, forty-seven minute affair of Guanacaste folklore, sounding as if they were recorded in front of an audience on someone’s patio. And it probably was. The two singers trade local songs that are as much a part of the tradition and landscape as the huge trees for which this area was named and the families who for countless generations have sat in the shade of these trees to share these very songs. They are a throwback to a time when Guanacaste was a part of Nicaragua, blended with Spanish Colonial times here and even a little pre-Colombian culture, all filtered through time and translated into the songs of town fairs, weddings, serenades and funerals.
Max Goldemberg is the son of a Russian immigrant father and a Costa Rican mother and Odilon Juarez is the oldest of twelve children of Guanacaste lineage. Both come from families of poets and teachers, guitarists and singers, historians and minstrels. Two of Odilon’s nephews are Fidel and Jaime Gamboa, the founders of the aforementioned Malpais, whose idea it was to present this traditional music, interpreted by a modern band for a new audience. In the booklet included with the CD, Jaime imparts a wonderful tale of the cross-section of musical history in Guanacaste, glomming every passing style until no format is singularly recognizable and a new, indigenous one is spawned. He also tells a great story about working with his uncle (Max) making cheese, while singing traditional songs and making up new ones, essentially becoming new threads in the living, woven fabric that is Guanacaste folklore.
Jaime also gives a description of the storyline for each song that I will not try to reproduce here. Suffice to say that they are overtly allegoric and work on many levels. And that the music itself seems to have a life of its own: with five or six tempo changes per song, they are a veritable potpourri of every culture that has left an imprint on the area.
Yazmin Ross and Luciano Capelli, two of the Papaya CEOs, worked on the production of the CD, while the third, Manuel Obregon, plays piano on the disc. It all lends to the homespun feel of the album that it deserves. The result is that Papaya has once again held up their end of the bargain by producing a recording that preserves past legacies while forging ahead with modern Costa Rican culture. Tierra Seca and all Papaya CDs are available at the Jaime Peligro book stores in Playa Tamarindo, Quepos, and Nuevo Arenal, where they will gladly sample the music for the customer. All comments concerning this article are welcome.