Thursday, November 17, 2011

Marley Tribute on Putumayo

Quirky Marley Tribute
Putumayo Music recently took a step away from its customary formula of regional and stylistic compilation albums to give us a tribute to the music of one man, the great reggae progenitor Bob Marley. Few people have made the kind of lasting, universal impact that Bob Marley has made with his music. In his short 36 years, Marley managed not only to introduce hundreds of millions to reggae but also spread powerful messages of peace, love, human rights and acceptance. It’s no surprise that almost 30 years after his death, one can travel to any part of the globe and witness his far-reaching musical legacy. A number of the twelve tracks were recorded specifically for this disc. But it opens strongly with something that already existed: Three Plus’s convincing “Jahwaiian” fusion version of “Is This Love.” And it remains in Hawaii for singer Robi Kahakalau’s cool, smooth take on the seldom heard “Do It Twice.”
The California band Rebelution delivers “Natural Mystic” with an authentic beat and an evocative, echo sound but, sadly, accompanied by seemingly uninspired vocals. And thin-voiced French-Canadian singer Caracol disappoints on “Could You Be Loved”—maybe it’s a style I just don’t get, but she sounds to me like a half-baked Nelly Furtado. More surprisingly, Céu also comes off strangely listless in “Concrete Jungle.” I guess you’ve either got Rasta in your blood or you don’t; it’s something that is often mimicked but not easily replicated. The Canadian band Northern Lights, on the other hand, perform a completely non-reggae version of “Waiting in Vain”, transforming it into a refreshing, acoustic folk track that listeners would have no idea was written by Marley if it was presented by itself.
Freshlyground before their World Cupperformance
Things pick up with Rocky Dawuni’s West African/island fusion sounds, and even more so when the South African Freshlyground bangs out their bright, driving Afro-fusion version of the anthem “Africa Unite,” really making the song their own, demonstrating their signature mix of African folk, kwela and jazz. And ultimately, the disc turns out to be a pretty good demonstration of how different styles can be bent and blended to adapt Marley’s hypnotic, singable, danceable songs, which are so closely identified with his own voice and sensibility. Northern Lights applies a dense American folk feel to “Waiting in Vain,” Julie Crochetière’s languid, sexy “Mellow Mood” has a vaguely European flair, and Funkadesi’s tricky rhythms and Indian/island stew form a unique style, though it didn’t totally grab me here.
The CD closes with two solid tracks. “No Woman No Cry,” from the collective called Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, a group of refugees displaced to Guinea during the Sierra Leone civil war. The group genuinely displays the heart of Marley’s “we’re all one” message. And the one-time ensemble Playing for Change is a truly international collective that unites stars like Keb’ Mo’ and Manu Chao with street musicians from all over the world. Their “One Love” makes for a beautiful good-night, a “We Are the World” without the showboating and hype. Good feelings all around. That’s the spirit of this uneven but overall quite worthwhile disc.
     All comments concerning this article are gladly welcome.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Cafecito Story

A Cafecito Story

     Julia Alvarez may not be a household name but her works are definitely recognizable. Among other things, she wrote the novels “How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents” and “In the Time of the Butterflies”. Yes, that Julia Alvarez. She is actually the authoress of ten novels, five books of poetry, a children’s book, and a book of collected essays. She is considered one of the most significant Latina writers, having achieved critical and commercial success on an international level. Born in New York of Dominican parents, she spent her early childhood on that island, returning to the U.S. at the age of ten. She is known for works that examine cultural expectations of women in both the U.S. and the Dominican Republic. I see her as successfully bridging the two cultures, rather than awkwardly straddling them. 

     I recently came upon a copy of Julia’s novella “A Cafecito Story”, an English/Spanish bilingual edition. My Spanish is passable but I’ve found books in this format to be very helpful to me in that the two languages are printed side by side for easy reference. I’ve also found it hard to find books printed in this format and I wish there were more.
     I read the story through strictly in English the first time, then went back and read it slowly in both languages more or less simultaneously, a “joint reading”. It is the story about a middle-aged man named Joe, the Midwestern son of a farmer in a mundane life who, just after a divorce, decides to vacation in the Dominican Republic. He tracks out on his own and discovers independent, organic coffee farmers surrounded and sandwiched in by corporate, industrial growers. Throwing caution to the wind, Joe abandons his teaching position and purchases a parcel of land. By pooling their resources, the collective is able to remain organic and even successfully enter into side ventures, further their educations and rejuvenate the cycle of Nature. It’s a sweet, human success story, with birdsongs used analogously throughout the story. 

     The Afterward is written by Julia’s husband, Bill Eichner, a former teacher, and they are both quick to explain that although they are also participating in a coffee collective in Dominica, this story is not autobiographical. OK, maybe a little: successful writers write about what they know. The message I got from this book is the importance of participating in a community, sharing your expertise and energy, and giving back to the community. 
     If I have a knock on the production, it is the occasional overuse of Spanish on the English side of the book. Some of the “leaps” into Spanish I find presumptuous and I think it should remain strictly English on one side and only Spanish on the other or you run the risk of losing readers.
     There are some wonderful woodcuts decorating the pages, created by Belkis Ramirez, a well known Dominican artist. It adds to the flavor of participation of the book. I’d love to see more like it. 
     All comments concerning this article are gladly welcome.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Green Dreams

Macho Eco-Tourism Made Easy
     Travelling outside the normal parameters in Central America requires a sense of adventure and a lot of ego. Stephen Benz has a healthy dose of both, as he demonstrates in his travel journal “Green Dreams”, a Lonely Planet publication. The book actually open with him in Peru in the late Eighties, following the political strife there and eventually taking a canoe journey into the Amazon, where he gets a taste of his new career. As an independent journalist with a sense of wanderlust, Benz initially was looking for political hotspots for a paying byline. He discovered that he not only got into that game a little too late, but that he also did not have the nerve for the tension and indiscriminant violence. What he did have was the desire, the ability and enough of the swashbuckling braggadocio to rub elbows with established journalists at all the local ex-pat watering holes. When the talk of a biosphere in Honduras and ecotourism cropped up, Benz showed interest while others balked: after all, green tourism was untested, no body was shooting at each other there, and it was in the Caribbean Mosquitia zone, a godforsaken area, in the collective opinion of the seasoned veterans.
     But Stephen’s curiosity was piqued, so he researched as much as he could of that area (very little) and quickly took the plunge, relying largely on introductions by friends of friends, and soon found himself in the small village of Brus on the Caribbean coast, whose only other gringo citizens were a missionary couple, a retired doctor and at times a pilot. The rest of the people spoke Meskita, a dialect of indigenous, Spanish and English combined. And no one had heard of the biosphere. He had been an exchange student in Costa Rica so his next venture was to San Jose, where he struck paydirt. Ecotourism was catching on here and Benz jumped onboard. Benz does a good job observing the changes he’s seen the country go through since he visited twelve years earlier, musing on the contradiction in terms between ecology and tourism. He is a witty writer with a perceiving eye.
     The journalist’s next stop was Guatemala City, to follow the Ruta Maya northeast into the Yucatan Peninsula. After a stopover in Tikal, he met with several young, educated Mayans who were part of the group dedicated to empowering Mayas and their traditions. It is a powerful section of the book. Oddly, Benz only visits a few of the more popular Mayan ruins: Tikal, Palenque and Copan, preferring to go into Maya hamlets off the beaten path. It was enlightening but I felt it strayed from the concept of seeing how ecotourism was working in the area: there was no tourism in the pueblos he visited. Still, Benz makes a lot of valid observations and the book is certainly worth the read.
     Green Dreams is Stephen’s second book about Central America, his first being “Guatemalan Journey” written after living in that country for two years. He currently teaches in Atlanta and has apparently discovered his softer side, becoming a hiway poet with his new publication, “U.S. 77”.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Grngos in Paradise

Gringos in Paradise
(And Singing Its Praises)

     Most of my music reviews for The Howler have been about Central American musicians and their music. But Guanacaste has become home to many people from outside the area and some of the people are musicians and some of these musicians have recorded songs about their experiences here. So, this column will be dedicated to my five favorite “local” gringo musicians. (Note: the Leatherbacks don’t count because they are a group. Sorry, that’s the rule.)

     For the past fifteen years, David Roberts has been dividing his time between Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Playa Tamarindo. He recently released “Tamarindo Sunset” on his own Moonlight Records label. David considers the songs to be “musical postcards”, snapshots of his of his Guanacstecan experience. He is backed by a full band on the disc, playing up-tempo, rock/blues, with lots of local references and a good feeling to it.

     During the twelve year span that he lived in the area, Bob Benjamin compiled and released his solo album, “Do You Know?” a country-bluesy collection of songs where Sr. Benjamin also employed the use of his local musician friends to give the album a fuller sound. Bob used to perform solo all over the area. He created a void when he moved away about a year ago.

     Maicol Leroy has lived in the area for almost twenty years. His new album, “San Juanillo” is a collection of twelve songs, eight of them penned by Maicol and written in Spanish. The album was recorded in an “open” studio that incorporated natural sounds: everything from monkey and frogs, chickens and roosters, to surf, wind and rainfall. It’s a unique, very listenable effort.

     Brian Dale splits his time between Canada and Costa Rica. When he’s here, he plays solo all around the Tamarindo area and gives a very personable presentation every night. For his album “peace/love/waves/song” he also utilized musician friends to give the songs a full, studio sound. Live or recorded, he has a sweet, recognizable voice and style. His infectious personality vibrates throughout every performance.

     Saving the undisputed best for last, Jesse Bishop hales from Texas but has lived in Langosta for nearly two decades. He has recorded two solid solo albums, “The Road to Tamarindo” and “Gringo in Paradise” along with a live collaboration CD with Fabienne Balzli, “Beauty and the Beast”, a great vehicle for her singing and his guitar work. He also plays in the rock trio The Banana Kings and plays solo around town all the time as well. He’s got a sense of humor, great stage presence and absolutely tears it up on guitar. I think he deserves a mention in the Lonely Planet travel Guide: “while you’re in Tamarindo, be sure to check out a Jesse Bishop concert”. He’s that good.

     Yes, there are other musicians in and about the area who have similar resumes; these are just my personal Top Five, the standouts among a league of very talented musicians who now call Tamarindo home. All comments concerning this article are gladly welcome.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

El Regreso Soundtrack

El Regreso Soundtrack

     Writing a soundtrack is tricky business. The music needs to compliment the action and images of the movie of the film without being pervasive. It needs to follow the storyline so in this way it is almost like an assignment. And all good musicians want to put their own personal stamp on their music, so it needs to fall into the category of artistic expression as well: no musician wants their work to become wallpaper. This article is a review of the soundtrack of the new Costa Rica movie “El Regreso”; it is not a review of the film, which is wildly popular right now.
     Federico Miranda picked up his first guitar with serious intentions at the age of twelve and taught himself to play. In 1993, he formed the popular Costa Rican rock band Gandhi, one of the first of this genre in this country. They have since released four albums and in 2005, Miranda also teamed up with pianist Walter Flores to work on the Baula Project, a fusion quartet who dedicated this album to the preservation of the leatherback turtle.
     Moving in a new artistic direction, Federico scored the music for this soundtrack, then brought together ten musicians to begin recording it under the name Banda Sonora. Sr. Miranda plays acoustic and electric guitars on the soundtrack, as well as programmed keyboards. The band consists of Guier Abel on bass guitar, piano, the two percussionists Juan Carlos Pardo and Ale Fernandez, violinists Caterina Tellini and Ingrid Solano, Ricardo Ramirez playing viola and Marianela Lamb on cello, making up the string section, along with Jhonathan Mena Jimenez on flute and Jorge Rodriguez Herrera, contributing the horn section. I should point out that six of the twenty-three songs were contributions from six other Costa Rican bands, including Calavera y la Canalla with “Solo Conmigo” from their very popular new album. So, the soundtrack really is an extensive team effort. But the album belongs to Miranda, whose acoustic guitar works is showcased on the gentler numbers on the disc, such as the opening cut, “Chepe Centro” as well as on a variety of other musical vignettes throughout the CD. He worked for hours with filmmaker Hernan Jimenez discussing various scenes and plots of the film before even a single note had been written. The music seems to alternate between soft and up-tempo, giving a kind of pulse to the album and becoming one of the fibers that is the tapestry of “El Regreso”.
     Other standout songs on the album include Son de Tikizia performing the Walter Flores composition “Jugaste con mi Destino” and the title song, “El Regreso”. I also really liked the two bonus tracks at the end of the disc.  

     It is no surprise that Papaya Music is distributing the CD, as one of their goals is to display to the world the great array of Costa Rican music. This CD, containing more than one hour of variety of Costa Rican music, fits right into that philosophy and is an excellent addition to anyone’s music collection.In Playa Tamarindo, it is available exclusively at Jaime Peligro book store, where they will sample the music for their customers.
     All comments concerning this article are gladly welcome.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Rumba, Mambo, Chachacha

Infectious Music From a Small Island

          In celebration of Cuba’s musical contribution to world music, Putumayo Music has released “Rumba, Mambo and Cha Cha Cha”, a ten song compilation by musical acts from all over the globe. Kicking off the set is “Guajira and Chachacha” by the French band Conjunto Massalia. Founded in 1990, the group has released four successful albums, the most recent being “Division”, where this snappy chacha first appeared. Who said the French can’t dance? The second number is “Potpourri de Chacha” by the Cubano sextet Tradicula. The group’s leader, Pedro Vargas, has worked to present son music with a modern twist and this lively medley-inspired song does just that.
     Julio “Fruko” Estrada started his music career in 1968 at the tender age of fifteen, singing for the popular Colombian band Los Corraleros. That same year, the group visited New York City, where Fruko witnessed first hand that city’s burgeoning salsa scene. Inspired, he founded Fruko y Sus Tesos in 1970. The band has recorded six albums and is referred by many Colombians as the country’s leading export. On this compilation, they offer their rendition of the popular “Mambo #5”, originally recorded by Perez Prado in the early Fifties and later rejuvenated by Lou Bega. Fruko has given it new life, once again, with his trademark delivery.
     Truly indicative of the global spectrum Cuban music has embraced is the song “Esperanza”, the entry by an eleven piece Scottish band called Salsa Celtica. The band originated in Edinburgh with the idea of fusing classical music with jazz and salsa to create their own genre with a marriage of musical styles. They took a gamble with this project but he result speaks for itself in its lively, unique style.
     Other standouts on this compilation disc include Grammy nominees Angel Melendez & the 911 Mambo Orchestra who hale from Chicago and have received an Indie Music Award for “Best Latin Album”. Their contribution to this CD, “Cereza Rosa” is an excellent vehicle for displaying their deep, brassy sound. In addition, Asere is a conglomerate of seven musicians who have played together for fifteen years and recorded four albums. “Oriente” is a toe-tapper, guaranteed to get you out of your chair. They are currently working on a project with legendary Billy Cobham, enough credence for anyone’s resume. 
     Orquesta la Moderna Tradicion assembled in the San Francisco Bay Area, where they play the night club circuit regularly. But the members are Texans, Venezuelans, Cubans, as well as Californians, all with a similar jazz/salsa passion. Their song “Mi Cha Cha Cha” pretty much speaks for itself. And the quirkiest delivery has been saved for last: Tres Muchachos & Companeros from St. Petersburg, Russia, performing “Pa’ Mantener Tradicion” from their premiere CD released last year, titled, ”Bombo Mambo”. Who could have ever guessed that these two worlds would intertwine? Fidel Castro must be having fits: he undoubtedly had been sure that his peoples’ communism would emanate from his tiny island to embrace and invigorate the world; instead, it is the music of Cuba that has sustained.
     The CD is available at the Jaime Peligro book stores in Playa Tamarindo, Quepos and Nuevo Arenal, where they will sample the music for their customers. Any comments concerning this article are gladly welcomed.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sonambulo - A Puro Peluche

Sleepwalking to a Funky Beat

     What do you get when you combine eleven musicians from Costa Rica, Cuba, Colombia and El Salvador who create a fusion sound of reggae, cumbia and funk, then let them tour Europe? If you ask the musicians of Sonambulo, they will tell you that the result is a new style of music that they call “psicotropical”, a catchy phrase for their very infectious music. The band’s first album, “A Puro Peluche”, was released in January 2009 with a lot of positive acclaim and little distribution. It was reissued in 2010 and promptly won the ACAM Best Tropical Album award. Getting heard is always a problem for any independent performer, no matter how good or popular you might be. But the Costa Rican label Papaya Music has recognized the talent of this band and has decided to include them in their catalog, which could be the break, the springboard, this band deserves. Sonambulo actually began as a music project five years ago, evolved and influenced from the street circus performances, Magos del Tiempo, in an effort to amalgamate social and environmental causes in a musical score that combines traditional and modern Latin and African beats into a creative new sound. The music definitely has all that and a carney, gypsy feel to it as well. I also hear a Middle Eastern influence and jazz roots as well, and yes, a little Rock & Roll, too. The result is truly global music, as can be heard in all thirteen songs on the album. Of the eleven musicians, there are three horn players, a keyboardist, and electric bass and guitarists, with the five other musicians supplying a wall of percussion, which often directs the sound of the band. I also find it interesting to have five members contributing vocals, throwing another variety of sounds into the mix. It’s hard to put a label on their sound (except psicotropical); it reminds me at different times of many styles, embracing them all, with a myriad of tempo breaks running rampant throughout the album. And the music is certainly danceable. Through all the creativity of this nearly hour-long disc, it is obvious that these guys are enjoying themselves.
     Standout songs on the album include “Zona Roja”, led by the funky bass playing of Tito Fuentes and “Jabali Montuno”, with the reggae influenced guitar of David Cuenca. The title song, “A Puro Peluche” has a Trance beat that is hypnotic, with the excellent keyboard playing (and all throughout the album, really) of Manu Davila. “Animal” is another notable, original song on the album, along with “Chusma Funk”, two songs that defy conventional terms, helping to define the new psicotropical category. 

     The band has just completed a twenty-five date tour of Europe in a six week span, helping to confirm their global appeal. They are now reportedly working on their second CD and I, for one, am anxious to hear it. Papaya Music has been promoting new local talent for some time and combined with their recent release of the CD by Lucho Calavera y la Canalla and now Sonambulo, they are well represented by modern, Twenty-First Century Costa Rican music.
     The new CD is available at Jaime Peligro book store in Playa Tamarindo, where you can sample the music. All comments concerning thhis article are gladly welcome.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fidel Gambia: A Voice Silenced

A Voice Silenced

     The show at the 212 Club in Heredia with the Guatemalan band Alux Nahual had gone well. Fidel Gamboa had shown up in support of the visiting band and had stayed to play with them in a set that went very well. The musicians stayed backstage after the show for some time, then Fidel, the co-founder of the immensely popular Costa Rican band Malpais went home and went to bed, where he was found in the morning, lifeless. He was just fifty years old, a cultural voice of his generation, silenced.
     Growing up with his brother Jaime, at times on their grandfather’s cattle ranch in Guanacaste, Fidel Gamboa would rise early to help milk the cows, then eat a second breakfast with his grandmother. When they were a bit older, the two brothers often worked with their uncle Max Goldenberg, a cheesemaker and part-time musician, also in the province of Guanacaste. Both were drawn toward composing music and the storytelling involved. Fidel went on to study music in theory and practice at the University of Havana to perfect his work on the clarinet and saxophone. He returned after two years to study and work at the jazz workshops at the University of Costa Rica in San Jose. It was there he began a working relationship with Adrian Goizueta, eventually playing in his band for seventeen years, along with his brother Jaime, while building a lifelong friendship with Goizueta. 

     In the early Nineties, Fidel changed musical direction, picking up a guitar and started composing more and more songs. He wrote a lot of material for advertisements, and appeared on more than thirty albums. He found that he was writing modern material that had roots in his Guanacastecan culture. He and Jaime were backing their uncle Max as Tierra Seca for an album for their friend Manuel Obregon, a founding member of the highly successful Costa Rican music label Papaya Music, when Obregon decided to sit in on piano and voila! Malpais was formed. The band went on to become one of the most popular in Costa Rica, but it was always motorized and directed by the Gamboa brothers, with Jaime scoring most of the instrumentation and Fidel writing and singing a great bulk of the songs. A workaholic, Fidel always had several musical projects alive at the same time. Among them were “La Cancion de Edad”, in addition to “Cuarteto Sporadico” and other splinter projects with Manuel Obregon, along with his work for national conservation and for children’s education in Costa Rica. Fidel was also the recipient of the Achilles Echeverria and the ACAM awards. 

     Fidel was once asked what he would have been if he hadn’t been a musician. His response was that he would like to have been a sculptor. I think that wish became real, too, because he has sculpted songs that have touched people, generations, and even a country. He will always be missed and can never be replaced. Thank you for your gift of songs to us, Fidel. Words cannot express our loss.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Editus - The Kids Come First

The Kids Come First
     Musicians throughout the world have a good reputation for giving back to the community, especially to the next generation, the children, and Central America is no exception. Costa Rica’s three-time Grammy Award winners Editus are a good example. They have recorded twelve albums in their seventeen years together as a group and in an effort to give back to the community, they founded their Acadamie de las Artes in San Jose, Costa Rica in November 2004. It is a modern conservatory that integrates diverse elements of artistic development, not only for music but for dance, literature, theater, painting and photography as well. The music classes they offer are incredibly staffed and diverse, with three drum and percussion instructors, six teachers specializing in voice, lyrics and songwriting, four electric guitarists, six acoustic guitar instructors, two violinists, a cellist, five pianists, one saxophone teacher and a bass guitar instructor. Not surprisingly, some of the current teachers are former students, a sure sign of the Acadamie’s success. The academy also offers a sound lab to teach engineering, mixing, mastering, even DJ sampling. And there is a chorale group who performs a minimum of twice a year with selections as varied as Gospel and spiritual, Rock and Pop, Costa Rican and Latin American songs, in an effort to create a completely diverse chorus.     

     On their website, the Acadamie displays three edited compilation videos of student recitals with Editus members accompanying them, obviously enjoying the fruits of their labors. The Acadamie has certainly proven its success: the school has a maximum occupancy of three hundred and has had a full curriculum with an extensive waiting list since opening its doors. Will all these students eventually find a career in music? Probably not, but they will undoubtedly learn a lot about themselves: things like discipline, their natural abilities, and what moves them on an emotional level; the lessons that develop self-esteem. Those are all good things to take from the classroom. 

     In 2007, the three piece instrumental band launched Fundacion Editus, offering opportunities at the Acadamie de las Artes for economically challenged children to develop their artistic talents. The success rate has been very positive, finding “diamonds in the rough” and allowing the students to bloom at whatever artistic skills they are most adept. Vocalist Luis Gabriel from Nicoya is a good example. After two years with the Acadamie, “Luis Ga” went on to compete and place second in the international festival Vina del Mar in Chile. He also released a version of “Desnudame el Alma” which has received a lot of radio airplay. Another notable is Argielette Chaves, a singer from Puntarenas, whose family scraped to put her into medical school in San Jose. At one point she had to abandon her musical dreams, until the Acadamie stepped in, along with their friend Marta Fonseca, who took “angelargie” under her wing. Ms. Chaves recently participated in the soundtrack for “Cartas a Elena” by Edin Solis, the guitarist of Editus. You can see it on You Tube; in fact, many of the Acadamie students participate in the video.
     Editus obviously understands the importance of keeping the arts alive, especially through the next generation. They have discovered the Fountain of Youth!
     All comments about thhis article are gladly welcome.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Merry Woman Keeping Calypso Alive

Merry Woman Keeping Calypso Alive

     Manuel Monestel is a man of many occupations: singer, songwriter, notable music historian and above all, a Calypsonian. Besides recording and touring with his band Cantoamerica and sitting in with other musicians, Manuel also has a successful solo career. His newest solo offering is a ten song CD titled “Merry Woman”. While his first solo album, “One Pant Man” was strictly Manuel and his guitar, singing his own songs and those of his mentors, such as Walter Ferguson, the new album features his experimental band Frutos de Acki that he put together a few years ago with students from the University of Costa Rica. Manuel still tips his cap to Ferguson, with a new version of “Going to Bocas”. What makes this rendition unique is the lead banjo by Monestel in it. This entire new album feels like it is exploring new directions to take Calypso music (which is really the godfather of reggae). For example, the use of sitar by Fabrizio Barquero on the song “Especias” is certainly new turf. Manuel told me that in addition to releasing his new songs, one of the goals of the album is to experiment with stringed instruments like the aforementioned sitar, as well as an ancient Caribbean instrument called the Marimbula, played by Marco Naranjo, which is used on some of the tracks in place of the conventional bass guitar, both handled adroitly by Jose Daniel Martinez. This Afro-Caribbean instrument is basically a resonator box with attached tongues or keys at one end that are plucked. I also hear the banjo being showcased on the album, which really makes sense to me. Calypso developed during the shipping trade years in the Caribbean, with its northernmost port being New Orleans, where Stephen Foster and his music flourished. It is still not unusual to hear a Calypso singer break into “You Are My Sunshine” and it seems Manuel has brought that tie full circle by implementing the banjo in a number of songs on this new album. The female lead vocals by Marcela Membreno on “Madrugada” as well as her accompanying vocals on the other songs also gives a fresh, new sound to this disc. 

     The title Song, “Merry Woman” encapsulates a lot of what Calypso is about: rhythm, humor and dancing. Monestel produced and arranged the album and his song sequences are masterful. Opening the album with “Still Turning Around”, a finger-snapping salutation with banjo accompaniment, is the perfect hook to draw the listener in. Likewise, finishing the set with “Early Morning Rain” and “Habitante Eterno de la Tierra” is a fitting close to this wonderful collage of songs sung alternately in Spanish and English, in impeccable recognition to Calypso’s bilingual heritage. Other highlights on the album set include “The First Time I Saw Limon”, another song that features the banjo, and “Especias”, that reminds us of the widespread origins of Latin American culture and the mixtures involved in it.
     The overall result of Merry Woman is a new sound for Calypso, one somehow seeped in past traditions while stepping into new terrain. All comments about this article are gladly welcome.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hammock Beneath the Mangoes

Hammock Beneath the Mangoes

     As a North American, I admit that my exposure to Latin American authors prior to moving to Costa Rica was limited, at best. Yes, I’d read Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Carlos Fuentes, Jorge Luis Borges and Isabel Allende (I’d even had the pleasure of meeting this famed author a few times), but honestly, my knowledge of this expansive world of literature was sorely lacking. When I moved to Tamarindo eight years ago, I made it a point to start amending this void and it has since been my pleasure to discover the rich, poetic world of Latin literature.
     I recently found a copy of “A Hammock Beneath the Mangoes”, a compilation of short stories written by twenty-six Latino authors from eight different Latin American countries. It is a great way for any novice to gain an introduction to this extensive genre. The collection is organized into five geographic sections: Mexico, the Caribbean, Chile, and two more chapters covering the rest of South America. Prior to each story, there is a brief bio of each author.
     I was a little disappointed and more than a little surprised that the famed Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa had not been included. I’ve read a collection of his short stories and can think of more than one of these that could easily have been included. By the same token, the book exposed me to a variety of writers whose other works I will now pursue reading. Two of the good surprises for me were discovering Jorge Amando, via “The Miracle of the Birds” and Murilo Rubiao’s “The Ex-Magician from the Minhota Cavern”, both modern Brazilian writers who combine sensuality, humor and the fantastic into a lively literary buffet.
     The Puerto Rican authoress Rosario Ferre was an excellent discovery for me, too. The story included in this book was “The Gift”, a well-crafted, flowing story about two girls from opposite sides of town who become best friends at a Catholic all-girl school and what ensues. It is truly a wonderful tale. Another Puerto Rican writer, Ana Lydia Vega, is represented in this anthology with her novella “Story-bound”, a sort of romantic detective tale told with a very hip, caustic wit. I also enjoyed being exposed to the Mexican writer Juan Rulfo via his perfectly paced short story “Luvina”. My favorite new author (for me), though, was the “enfant terrible” Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas and his delivery of “Bestal Among the Flowers”, a bizarrely enthralling story that could never be properly recounted and deserves to be read first hand only for its full impact.
     And the aforementioned Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez are here, too: he with “The Last Voyage of the Ghost Ship”, a rambling, three thousand word single sentence of interior monologue and she with “Toad’s Mouth”, a classic example of her talent for fairy tale erotica.
     Spanish is called a Romance language for a reason and it means a lot more than what goes on between the sheets. The culture seeps through the language. Metaphors and adjectives live in a poetic, otherworldly level. This book is a nice primer for non-Latinos to become exposed to this Romantic way of life. 
     All comments about this article are gladly welcome.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Musical Depth of Manuel Obregon

The History of Central American Music
(In Five Easy Lessons)

     In a region that has been a melting pot for centuries, Central America has become seeped in cultures 
and traditions, some of them in regional pockets and some unilaterally across the entire area, and music is 
no exception to this historical collage. Manuel Obregon is a classically trained pianist. He took it upon
 himself to transcribe to keyboard the music of legendary Peruvian guitarist Agustin Barrios Mangore’. 
He is a member of Malpais, one of Costa Rica’s most popular bands. He is one of the founders of Papaya
 Music, one of the premier recording labels in Central America. Last year, he was recruited as the Minister
 of Culture for this country. That is quite a resume’. 
     I also perceive Sr. Obregon as a musicologist and an even bigger music nerd than me, and I mean that in a nice way. And one of his passions has been to record and present a musical history of Central America. In my estimation, there have been no less than five offerings by him thus far in this vein. The first album on Papaya was Sr. Obregon directing and accompanying La Orquesta de la Papaya, which was a conglomeration of fourteen musicians from all seven Central Americans playing songs individually rooted in each country and morphed into a kind of musical Central American stew with a definite indigenous backbone. It’s a unique concept and the outcome is remarkable. The second release from the Orquesta included five female vocalists as the music, like the area, continued to evolve, and the definition and character of the music became even stronger. These two albums and the live tours promoting them put Central American music on the global map.
     Piano Malango was Obregon’s next dissertation into the area’s musical legacy and this one is borne of Manuel’s insight. An instrumental album of piano accompanied by members of Malpais on percussive, stringed and wind instruments, Sr. Obregon takes the listener on a musical journey of time and geography across Costa Rican, Nicaraguan and Panamanian terrain. One needn’t know the songs beforehand to appreciate the sojourn.
     Manuel Obregon could never be accused of being conventional, the irony being that the bulk of his work is seeped in history. His next chapter in his presentation is a duet of piano and vocals titled "Abril y Mayo", presenting thirteen traditional tunes from the working class, mostly of the Central Valley of Costa Rica. The songs cover a span of more than two centuries and were unearthed over thirty years by the vocalist, Aurelia Trejos. The result is breathtaking and indicative of Obregon’s (and Trejos’) devotion to preserving history that has been encased in music, and that would certainly evaporate without the passion and perseverance of people like them.
     The fifth chapter is a conglomerate of some of Obregon’s other recordings with Papaya Music, including his part in Malpais, a group that blends folkloric Guanacaste music with jazz and improvisation (popular in San Jose) to create a style all their own. Obregon also played on the “Wade in the Water” album gospel music in another fusion of modern and historic music that has been a part of Caribbean culture for centuries. He also appeared several times on the “Guanacaste Atardecer” compilation CD, with Malpais as well as in Cuarteto Esporadico with Fidel and Jaime Gamboa and revered guitarist Mario Ulloa, performing a fifty-year old Panamanian bolero, and on the opening cut, playing in a trio live with a flautist and Mother Nature on the Osa Peninsula.
     OK, the music/history lesson is over. There will be no test. But please do your homework and listen to any Manuel Obregon music you can find, all available at the Jaime Peligro book stores in Playa Tamarindo, Quepos and Nuevo Arenal.
     All comments concerning this article are gladly welcomed.

More Salsa!

More Salsa!

     Like much of the modern Latin American culture, salsa music and dance originated literally hundreds of years ago on the islands that include Puerto Rica and Cuba. At the time, the region was called the Spanish Caribbean. But the term “salsa” is generally credited to Izzy Sanabria, a graphic artist who reportedly coined the phrase to identify the Latin music that was popular in New York in the Sixties. Sanabria designed album jackets for the popular Fania Records in New York City’s “Spanish Harlem”, founded by Jerry Masucci and Johnny Pacheco. It refers to a phrase the audiences would call out to the musicians during the montuno, the instrumental portion in the middle of a song, to “spice up” the established melodies, dance and rhythms of the time, such as la conga, cumbia, guaguanco and danzon, with a new, notable jazz influence.
     In 2003, Putumayo Music, the label that coined the phrase ‘World Music,’ released “Salsa Around the World”. Now, in response to the mounting popularity of this style of music, Putumayo has decided to release a second CD, titled simply “Salsa”. Yes, salsa has become mainstream, but that is not a bad thing. While Putumayo’s first disc presented salsa music from unexpected places like Scotland, Finland and Japan, the second disc displays how this genre initially seeped into the rest of Latin America from its original Caribbean origin.
     The ten-song disc opens with the Colombian band Grupo Gale performing “Volver, Volver”, an upbeat, very danceable tune. The nine piece group, founded by percussionist Diego Gale, has an immense following, including a hefty allegiance in Europe. Two more Colombian bands make an appearance on the disc. Fruko y Sus Tesos play “Naci en la Barriada”, another up-tempo tune. The band was founded in 1970 by Ernesto “Fruko” Estrada at the tender of age of fifteen. And Juanito y la Agresiva demonstrates the music of a new generation of Colombian salsa musicians with the song “Angoa”, the final cut on the disc.
     Cuba gets a double nod on the album, with Chico Alvarez and his Afro-Caribbean band doing “Rumba en el Solar,” a selection from one of their eight albums. In addition, the Cubano 50s-style charanga band Orquestra Aragon donates “Son al Son,” a tribute to modern salsa’s roots.  Famed pianist Eddie Palmieri lends credence to this compilation with his “Sujetate la Lengua”. It’s nice to see the nine-time Grammy winner participate on this venture. Another bow to Palmieri comes from the group Son Boricua playing their version of his classic tune, “Muneca”.
     As always, the album is produced in premium Putumayo style, complete with an informative booklet in Spanish, English and French and packaged in an eco-friendly cover. I do need to comment, however, that I am more than a little disappointed by the lack of representation of Central American salsa music. The Costa Rican band Orquestra la Solucion, for example, is an extremely popular and accomplished group who would have filled a glaring void in this compilation. Hopefully, some day the musical culture of this continent will get the global recognition it deserves.
     In Playa Tamarindo and Tilaran, both of Putumayo’s salsa CDs are available exclusively at Jaime Peligro, where they will sample the music for their customers.  All comments about this article are gladly welcomed.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Ticos (Culture and Social Change in Costa Rica)

Understanding Tico Culture

     There is an old saying that opinions are like navels: everyone has one. And it seems that every person in Costa Rica, Ticos and ex-pats alike, have their own take on “the Tico way”. I’ve just finished reading “The Ticos: Culture and Social Change in Costa Rica”, by Mavis, Karen and Richard Biesanz. The authors are a little like referees in that they try to present the different viewpoints or explanations for Costa Rican’s mannerisms and tendencies. In my opinion, the book is a good insight to the country’s social behaviors; but then again, like the authors’, this is only my opinion…
     The book starts with a brief history of Costa Rica, focused mainly on the culture since the Spanish colonization. Even early on, the country gained a reputation for independent thinking and being spread out, rural and being a terrain of a variety of microclimates only aided this mindset. The second chapter delves in the history of the economic climate, from coffee to bananas and finally ecotourism. Along with the third chapter on the history of politics here, the authors establish a trend or foundation in their presentation, a country in permanent flux where social mores prevail, remedies are patched together to keep all party’s pride intact. The book is full of interesting bits of information. For example, I had not been aware that President Calderon, elected in 1940, had a secret agreement with then U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt to defend the Panama Canal in the event of an attack and that this alliance resulted in funding for the construction of what would be the Pan-American Highway.
     The next chapters deal more with the social aspects of the country, from “Class and Ethnicity” and “Community” to chapters on “Family”, “Education” and “Religion” and I believe these five chapters are the real core of the book and of Costa Rican culture; indeed, family, community and religion, specifically Catholicism, seem to be enmeshed. I did find it interesting to read about the growing population of Protestants here.
     Understanding some of the traditions and their roots helps define a people and Ticos are no exception. It’s more than a little sad to read in this book how some of the mannerisms, rituals and respects of the culture are vanishing so rapidly as the Twenty-First Century invades Costa Rica and families, generations, neighbors and communities become more detached, literally with the aid of cars, computers and Cellphones. The final chapter on how Ticos prefer to spend their leisure time was something of a summary for the entire book. It included a look back at how much more family-oriented leisure time was in the past and how fractured and singular it has become.
     Another interesting aspect of the book was in clarifying dreamy myths about the country with hard facts and numbers about how much money the government here actually spends per capita on things like public health and education. It takes a little shine off the glorified personae. Far and away, though, the backbone of Tico culture seems to be “para quedar bien”, to get along with everyone which, in a single stroke, explains why issues have historically never been completely resolved. Embracing and understanding this concept will help an outsider go a long way toward persevering here.
     All comments concerning thhis article are gladly welcomed.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Functional Costa Rica Field Guide

 A Functional Field Guide

     Be suspicious when someone tells you that size doesn't matter. On the contrary, when it comes to field guides, for example, the size of the book is a determining factor toward how well it will serve the customer. For example there are several beautiful coffee table books whose subject matter is the wildlife of Costa Rica. But I wouldn't want to treat that book like a field guide, put it in my backpack and go into the jungle in search of its subject matter. Likewise, there are pocket guides that provide concise snapshots of the most common species of wildlife in Costa Rica, concise being the operative word. Pocket guides are handy but are limited and compact in their information as well.
     Recently a field guide has appeared that fills this void in that it is compact, travels well and is a fountain of pertinent information. Simply titled "The Wildlife of Costa Rica", this field guide is a collaboration of four experts in their respective fields. Fiona Reid is a biologist from Cambridge who has written more than a dozen books on mammals, including "A Field Guide to the Mammals of Central America and Southeast Mexico"; Jim Zook is an ornithologist who has lived and worked in Costa Rica for twenty-two years, coming here originally as a volunteer of the Peace Corps to teach environmental education; Twan Leenders is a biologist from The Netherlands, specializing in Animal Ecology, especially among amphibians and reptiles; Robert Dean has been studying and painting neotropical birds for a dozen years, including the artwork he did for the highly acclaimed "The Birds of Costa Rica: A Field Guide", which is considered The Bird Bible among the serious bird watchers here.
Twan Leenders at work
     This two hundred-fifty page book is presented in five main sections: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and arthropds, each with a nice introduction. It also offers a very good glossary and an index of scientific and common names of each species. One very distinguishing attribute that I enjoy about this field guide is the presentation of twenty-four natural history vignettes interspersed throughout the book. Each vignette offers text that, accompanied by a photograph of the subject at hand, portray general points of interest, describing in greater detail the given species and the natural history and ecology of their habitats. With forty color photos and more than six hundred detailed color illustrations, this functional field guide exposes readers to the animals and other wildlife one is most likely to see in Costa Rica. I also appreciate the fact that all measurements in this book are being relayed in both metric as well as inch/foot terms. As a matter of fact, this book itself measures 14 cm by 21.5 cm (or 5 1/2 X 8 1/2 inches), a good daypack size.
     I find the overall presentation of "The Wildlife of Costa Rica" - the layout, the language and the flow of information to be very user-friendly, especially for the inquisitive, non-scientist, such as myself. To be sure, there is a plethora of scientific information in this guide, which has adeptly been made digestible for the average reader. The guide is published and distributed by Zona Tropical, a Costa Rican company who, I believe, saw a need, filled it, and hit a home run in doing so. And a home run is a home run, no matter the size, and don't let anyone tell you any differently.
     "The Wildlife of Costa Rica" is available at the Jaime Peligro book stores in Playa Tamarindo, Quepos and Nuevo Arenal, where they will gladly let the customer browse through their open copy of the book.  All comments concerning this article are gladly welcomed.        

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Expanding World of Malpais

The Expanding World of Malpais

     Just six years ago, the Costa Rican band Malpais released their first album, “Malpais Uno”. The music, a kind of modern folkloric sound with Guanacastecan roots, received an immediate positive response from the public. Malpais had filled a void. In 2004, for their second CD, “Historias de Nadie”, the five piece band added Gilberto Jarquin as a second drummer for most of the recordings, working alongside Carlos “tapao” Vargas, percussionist extraordinaire. The band liked this new addition and the group grew to six members. The listening audience approved, too, as the fan base of the band skyrocketed. By the time they recorded their third disc in 2006, “Malpais En Vivo”, they had become the most popular band in the country, verified by the crowd response on this live CD. The album was also notable in that it introduced some new songs and used female vocalists as well.
     Nowadays, a new Malpais album is a national event. Their newest offering, “Un Dia Lejano” is sure to please their current fans and certainly bring the band new ones at the same time. The two CD package contains twenty six songs, well over an hour and a half of music, including a studio version of “Rosa de Un Dia”, which was introduced on the live album. Daniella Rodriguez also made her debut on the live disc and has stayed on to provide lead vocals for some songs and backing vocals on others. Daniella is a good example of how the band has grown over the years, adding personnel and expanding their musical directions. 

     The band has always been a prolific group of musicians, each with their individual projects. Fidel Gamboa, the main songwriter, obviously he had a good number of new songs to unveil. I like the fact that the band released a double CD album because it gives the entire group a lot of room to play and demonstrate the various musical directions they are pursuing. Make no mistake, Malpais has remained “true to their school” of Guanacaste folk influence. But it’s also nice to hear Fidel rip through the guitar lead on “Efecto Mariposa” like I have never heard him play before and the entire band Rock & Roll their way through “Derechos de Autor”.

     Other new musical shapes and colors on the album include Manuel Obregon leaning on his Hammond organ, stretching the notes, and the whole band rendering a symphonic sound at various times throughout the album. The chorus vocals are rich and more harmonic as well, a kind of new instrument for the band.
     As always, Papaya has done an excellent job with the packaging of their product. The CD case is a double fold-out with a separate booklet for each disc, containing lyrics and other pertinent information. Everyone involved in this album is obviously very proud of their accomplishments. They should be: “Un Dia Lejano” shines brightly.
     The new Malpais album and all Papaya CDs are available at the Jaime Peligro shops in Playa Tamarindo, Quepos and Tilaran, where they will gladly play the music for their customers. All comments concerning this article are welcome.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Willow Zuchowski: With Her Head in the Clouds

With Her Head in the Clouds

     Willow Zuchowski needs a hat rack simply to distinguish her many occupations: this woman wears a lot of different hats. First and foremost, Ms. Zuchowski is a botanist who has lived in the Monteverde area of Costa Rica for nearly three decades. She visited Costa Rica a few times in the late Seventies as a vacationing botanist, then accepted a position in the early Eighties that allowed her to return to Monteverde to work as a field assistant on a hummingbird-plant interaction project and has called that area “home” ever since. Willow is also a renowned author with four books to her name, as well as a booklet of Common Flowering Plants of the Monteverde Cloud Forest and a four-fold laminate covering the Cloud Forest of Montverde. She writes passionately about this area. And Willow is an adept illustrator and includes her work in each of her books. Truly, the culmination of these endeavors makes Willow Zuchowski a formidable teacher and instructor. Her works are detailed and specific enough to serve any advanced botany student and yet straightforward and digestible for any lay person, such as myself. For me, this is an indication of a natural teacher.
     A good example of the cohesive mix of her talents lies between the covers of the book “An Introduction to Cloud Forest Trees  Monteverde, Costa Rica”, for which she rendered all the illustrations. The text, written by William Haber, covers eighty-eight common species of cloud forest trees, indigenous to that locale. The book is separated into three cohesive sections, beginning with an overview of Monteverde that covers its geography, climate and soil, along with a description of the various forms of pollination and seed dispersal and an overview of the biodiversity of the vegetation there and in Costa Rica in general.
     The second section of the book is the real meat of the publication, dealing with the identification of the trees, dividing them into ten major groups for the benefit of the reader. Willow’s illustrations are detailed and specific, testimony to her gift of communicating not only with words but with her drawings as well. The third and final section is a series of four appendices, including a very useful glossary of botanical terms. Author Mark Plotkin has been quoted as saying that, “this book belongs in the backpack of all nature lovers headed for Central America”. I agree wholeheartedly.
     Willow’s other publications include “Tropical Trees of Costa Rica” and “Tropical Blossoms of Costa Rica”, two handy field guides, as well as the extensive “Tropical Plants of Costa Rica: a Guide to Native and Exotic Flora”. All of Ms. Zuchowski’s books are available at the Jaime Peligro book stores in Playa Tamarindo and Tilaran.
     Her newest project is a native plant propagation and garden initiative called ProNativas, which had its impetus in Monteverde and is now spreading throughout Costa Rica.
     So there we have it: Willow Zuchowski: illustrator and author, teacher, ecologist and botanist currently in search of a new tree, where she can hang her hats of many shapes and colors…
     For readers interested in Ms Zuchowski’s Monteverde laminate, please refer to:
     All comments concerning this article are gladly welcome.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

New Reggae Night in Costa Rica

New Reggae Night in Costa Rica

     Reggae music has become a global phenomenon. Cast into public awareness forty years ago by musicians like Johnny Nash and Bob Marley, the music remains Caribbean in temperament.
     In 1995, the young Costa Rican label Papaya Music released “Costa Rica Reggae Night”, an excellent compilation of Reggae music from this country. This collection of thirteen songs from well known Costa Rican bands serves as a history of notable local reggae bands. The album has been a monster, selling over fifteen thousand copies in fifteen years, a remarkable feat for an independent Central American label.
     Papaya has decided to release a second album in this vein, appropriately titled “Costa Rica Reggae Night 2”. It is a logical follow-up to the first CD and picks up where it left off, with some new conceptual twists. Many of the songs were recorded October and November last year; this new disc is an excellent showcase of current Costa Rican bands and how Reggae has been embraced globally and woven into other musical fabric, including ska, electronica, cumbia, dub, even punk, along with conventional Latin rhythms. 
     The album opens with “Danger” by the Kingo Lovers, a popular band from San Jose who has amassed a large fan base during their four years together. The second song is “A Queen Is” by Unity, formed by Sergio Camacho, a veteran in the Costa Rican Reggae scene. His original band, Native Culture, appeared on the first Reggae Night compilation. Other notable groups include Huba & Silica, performing “Rockin’” from their  “El Origin de las Especies” CD and Sulalakaska (which means “paradise” in the indigenous bri-bri) doing “Ayer Triste Hoy Feliz” from their album “Mummy Fingers”, blending ska, punk, cumbia and meringue into their reggae stew for their own unique sound.
     Another impressive band on this compilation is Moonlight & Huba, who mix reggae dub with electronica and an environmental message. Very Twenty-First Century. Appropriately, their song is titled “Global Warming”. The band was founded by bassist Gabo Davila, from the popular band Mekatelyu, also featured on the first Reggae Nights CD. Moonlight has recorded two CDs, “Biodub” in 2009, and the new disc “Se Caliente”, released in February 2011.                 The hard-driving sound of “Positvity”, from the CD “Elevarse” by the popular San Jose band Cocofunka is a nice selection for a closing song. But somebody needs to call a doctor: these guys have Rock & Roll fever!
      The standout performance is “Contracorriente” by Lucho Calavera y La Canalla from their new debut CD “Ni Pa Que Te Quento”, which took a full year to make. The eight piece band is known for their lively stage shows and an earnest attention to detail in the studio, a rare combination. As Lucho explained, “We play what we know: Costa Rican and Central American rhythms, rumba flamenco, meringue, funk, even cha cha cha!” The potpourri has drawn a lot of attention, including by Papaya Music, who are interested in distributing the new CD for the band.
     In all, twelve bands appear on the album, produced by the husband/wife team Yazmin Ross and Luciano Capelli, two of the founders of Papaya Music. The result is a great barometer of the breadth Costa Rican reggae has reached, revealing new talent and the evolution of popular local musicians. Costa Rica Reggae Night 2 has the propensity to succeed beyond its predecessor. It’s a great addition to anyone’s collection. It is available at the Jaime Peligro book stores in Playa Tamarindo, Quepos and Nuevo Arenal.All comments concerning this article are gladly welcome.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Guillermo Anderson: A Musician for All Seasons

A Musician for All Seasons

     Honduran musician Guillermo Anderson recently released his ninth CD, “Del Tiempo y del Tropico”. Each of his CDs has its own distinctive flavor and direction. It’s hard to describe his music with a single, catch-all phrase. The term “versatile” falls short. I think a brief synopsis of each album demonstrates this point.

       His first CD, “Desde el Fondo del Mar” was recorded in Italy with his Afro-Caribbean band Ceiba, who play on all his non-solo efforts. The disc contains the song “En Mi Pais”, which has become a modern national anthem for Honduras.

     “Costa y Calor”, his second album, is an experimental album with the band, blending the popular Honduran coastal musical styles of Paranda and Punta into a new sound. It’s a good example of how Anderson takes chances, setting his career apart from the conventional.

     “Mujer Cancion, Cancion Mujer” was produced in association with the Honduras National Institute for Women. One humorous song, “Historia de Manuelito,” follows a day in the life of a man who has agreed to do the home chores and take care of the kids. The rest of the songs have women as the main character. “Haydee,” for example, is about a woman who washes clothes by hand during the day and is the Queen of Calypso by night. 

     “Para Los Chiquitos” gets so much airplay in Honduran schools that people who learn about Guillermo this way assume that he only records for children. The goal of this CD is to make children aware of rainforest species in danger of distinction.


  “El Tesoro Que Tenes” is dedicated to calling attention to La Mosquitia, a lesser known area of Honduras. Guillermo uses regional musical instruments from this zone, and employs musicians from the area to participate, at times singing in the region’s indigenous language. The production of this CD is in conjunction with Biosphere of Rio Platano.


       “Escarguitos Del Caribe” is a musical collection from the coastal regions of Honduras. The CD includes a video for the title song, depicting immigrant Hondurans longing for some home cooking. The song has been used as the opening and finale for four of the most popular television stations in Honduras.

      “Pobre Marinero” is an acoustic solo CD. The songs are stories about a variety people whose lives overlap with the author himself. An interesting concept, indeed. It is also a wonderful vehicle to demonstrate Anderson’s equally incredible voice and guitar picking. 

     Anderson’s newest album is the soundtrack to a book by photographer Hannes Walraffen, depicting historical Honduran sites. The album stands on its own, an eighty minute opus that visits the old banana railway, seaport bars and indigenous Garifuna towns.

    All these CDs are produced by the independent Honduran music label Costa Norte Records and Max Urso, president of the label and longtime friend of Guillermo. Recently, Papaya Records in Costa Rica felt a need to broaden Anderson’s audience by releasing the compilation “Llevarte Al Mar” including songs from each of the Honduran’s albums. All his CDs are available in Costa Rica exclusively at Jaime Peligro stores in Playa Tamarindo.  All comments concerning this article are gladly welcome.