Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Pursuit to Paradise

Pursuit to Paradise

     Mary Anne Marlowe’s got gumption and she has been willing to demonstrate it throughout her adult life. Her recent autobiographical book, “Pursue to Paradise” demonstrates just how resourceful and resilient she truly is as it recounts her decade of living in Costa Rica by herself and as a single mom, battling for custody of her son, Chaz. The book opens with her pulling the plug on her life in Toronto, Canada and freeing herself from the “herd mentality” as she puts it, then relocating to Guanacaste, specifically Playa Flamingo, on basically nothing but her wherewithal, her “sandal strap budget”, again in her words.
     The book is divided into nine chapters, beginning in 2001, with her arrival in Guanacaste as she immediately demonstrates her ability to adapt to her surroundings and situations. Within no time at all, she has a place to live and a small restaurant called The Hillside CafĂ© (for those here long enough to remember it) and is making and soliciting her homemade fragrant candles on the side. She’s figured out a niche with her wholesome style of cooking and canvassing for candle clientele, while she battles with her son’s custody with his father, for whom she has not one single good word throughout the book.. In the meantime, she gains notoriety from the locals for being an early riser, a beachcomber with the ability to locate discarded goods and “natural gifts”, such as driftwood and shells, and transform them all into something useful, without cost. She also begins single-handedly manufacturing and distributing ice cream at a wholesale scale, an amazing feat.
     Throughout the book, Mary Anne discovers more and more about herself as she spends more time in Costa Rica and discovers more about this place as well. She finds herself becoming more and more healthy, physically and mentally, and does find a way to reunite with Chaz here in Costa Rica. I have to say that throughout the book, she seems to have bad luck with her relationships with men. She also pulls no punches about those men’s ultimate selfishness and general bad behavior. But she is also surrounded by good friends she has accumulated, quirky as they might be, who are continually there to lend a hand for her.
     Her journey in Costa Rica eventually takes her to Lake Arenal when she decides to relocate and try new approaches to making a living, being a mom, and being in a relationship. The most amazing factors I found in the book were Mary Anne’s focus, her unwavering determination and her ability to make her goals materialize. She has fallen in love with Costa Rica and the style of life here and now sees her calling as passing these lessons on to others. I wish her all the luck in the world.
     I was lucky enough to get hold of an advance copy to read for this review, but by the time this article is published, it should be ready for purchase by the general public at or at the Jaime Peligro book store in Playa Tamarindo.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Patino Quintana

Patino Quintana

     Daniel Patino Quintana is a singer/songwriter guitarist from San Jose. He is also an arranger with a good perception of what he is after and how to produce it. I have been listening to an E.P., “La Dulce Vida” and an album, “Camino de Aire” by his band Patino Quintana. The two discs are comprised of sixteen songs tracking more than an hour of music. It is not possible to label the music with any particular style. The full-length album has a suite sensation to it, with the titles of some of the passages referencing the album title and sounding symphonic, giving it an almost orquestral sound. Indeed, the band includes not only guitars, bass, piano and percussion, but violins and a female vocal chorus as well. And for this album, Daniel has recruited Ivan Rodriguez from Malpais to play additional violin on two of the songs, Camilio Poltronieri to add petal steel guitar on one passage, Checka D’avila to contribute sax for two songs and flute on another, and a variety of guests on a variety of electronic keyboards and percussionists. The result is a real collage or melting pot of sounds, varying between the orquestral, and acoustic and vocal songs. I have to mention the guitar playing by band member Esteban Urena. It’s always clean and slick and he uses a lot of filters and phasers to enhance the sound. It’s obvious he is plugged into Daniel’s vision and knows how to help get them there.
   The album opens, appropriately, with the sound of a radio dial surfing through channels, broadcasting a variety of snippets of different sounds until it “lands” on the opening notes of “Tentacion de 12 Horas”. The voices are strong, harmonic and the music has some great hooks, as the album takes off, coursing through the ten songs, including three “Camino de aire” segues. I think it is a very accomplished production overall. If I have a complaint, it would be about the cover artwork, blank with oversized, very faint grey block letters. It is easy to not notice the jacket and I don’t think it does the music justice. That might seem crass, but believe me, packaging is a huge part of marketing a CD, which is how you get people to buy your product.
     The EP, “La Dulce Vita”, on the other hand, has a very bright, Poppy, enhancing cover. The album opens with a nice vocal and acoustic guitar entry, into a straight-forward rock song. Daniel certainly has a talent for creating musical hooks. The total musical ensemble is composed into a very listenable product. Papaya Music thinks so, too. The largest music label in Costa Rica has agreed to distribute the two CDs for Patino Quintana, and that can only help them reach the audience they have obviously worked so hard for and that they deserve. Their CDs are available at the Jaime Peligro Book Store in Playa Tamarindo, where they will gladly sample the music for their customers.

A Turtle and a Toad Join the Pachanga Family

A Turtle and a Toad Enter the Pachanga Family

     In Tortuguero at the break of dawn, a baby turtle cracks through the shell of its egg and begins its perilous trek through prospective predators and other dangers in order to unite with the raging sea that beckons.
     At the dawn of time, according to Bribri legend, there was an only mountain, at the top of which countless toads held up an immense spherical stone that emitted strange noises. The toads, who were all the same color, had been told by their creator that their mission was to protect the stone and keep it from breaking apart.
     These are the openings of the two new bilingual books for young readers from the Costa Rican publishing company Pachanga Kids, their fifth and sixth in the series.
     The noted Costa Rican poet Rodlolfo Dada wrote the lyrical storyline for “Una Tortuguita Sale del Nido (A Turtle is Born)” and Wen Hsu, who was born in Taiwan to Chinese parents and moved to Costa Rica at the age of two, contributed the wonderful artwork. The work by these two artists compliments each other in this amazing union of talent. I cannot stress enough the incredible marriage of medias accomplished by this book. And Eliot Greenspan did a good job in the translation to English to preserve the rhythmic flow of the story. The book is intended for children three years of age and older. I think the author’s delivery of information to the young reader feels unobtrusive, therefore much easier for the kids to digest. 

     Yazmin Ross, one of the founders of Pachanga Kids, is no stranger to adapting stories. At the age of seven, her son created a story about a group of fish who wanted to sweeten the ocean with sugar. Ms Ross remembered and treasured this story for twenty years and used it as the premise for “El Mar Azucarado (The Sea Sweet Sea)”, the first Pachanga publication. For “En Busca del Sapito Dorado (In Search of the Golden Toad)”, Ross has elaborated on an oral history of Creation from the Caribbean indigenous culture in Costa Rica. It is quite a responsibility bestowed upon the poor, uniformly-colored toads, and luckily for us, they eventually were unable to hold the rock and keep it from opening and creating every form of life we know. Yazmin told me she relocated the story to Monteverde to help children understand the plight of the Golden Toad and that she did not depict them as extinct because she wants the children to embrace a sense of hope. Again, it is the telling of the story, alongside the mesmerizing illustrations by the Venezuelan artist Maria Elena Valdez that take the book to another plateau. Valdez contributed the artwork for an earlier Pachanga publication and it is nice to see more of her talents applied to the Pachanga publications.
     Both of these new hardback books are printed in Spanish and English, simultaneously on each page, a nice vehicle for helping your child become bilingual. All of the Pachanga Kids books are available at the Jaime Peligro book stores in Playa Tamarindo and Quepos, where they have open store copies for the customers to check out.

Roxanne Oliva's Accordian Crumbs

Roxanne Oliva’s Accordion Crumbs

     She’s at it again: after her highly listenable 2010 debut album, “Box Candy”, accordionist extraordinaire Roxanne Oliva now offers her sophomore venture: “Accordion Crumbs”. The CD opens with “Secret Body Tango”, an Oliva original, a nice bass & accordion duet with castanet accompaniment and a wonderful intro song. “Fi Fi’s Messy Closet” is an up-tempo, playful and frenzied tune recorded by her band Youkali at what Roxanne describes as “a run away fast tempo, giving it that untamed quality”. She told me that the song was inspired by what is hidden, or closeted. I also like this album’s versions of the traditional songs “Hole in the Boat Jig” and “Limerick Lass Set”, with their roving, Irish lilt, reinforced by the fiddle playing of Scott Renfort. And “Spin Bouree”, another Roxanne original, was inspired by 3/4 Bourees that were popular in southern Europe. In fact, Ms Oliva told me that most of her songs are inspired by folk dance music. 

Roxanne at work & play
     Roxanne acknowledges that the title of her album is in reference to the popular E. Annie Proulx novel, “Accordion Crimes”, which follows the life of an accordion and its many owners, of many nationalities, for more than a century. And I believe Roxanne has been successful on this disc in embracing those varied cultures and musical styles that span a great length of time and heritage.
Everyone needs an accordion Babe
     The CD is subtitled, “Tasty Bits if Random Sessions” and I wholeheartedly agree with the “tasty” assessment. Granted, the songs are an assortment of songs from a variety of projects with which Ms Oliva has been associated, but far from being a hodgepodge, I enjoyed a certain cohesiveness, a flow in the music. Four of these new songs were written by David Lux and were recorded for “Quiet Little Marriage”, an independent film that has garnered critical acclaim and received awards from film festivals in both Los Angeles and Austin. Along with Richard Mandel, David Lux also provided the tasty guitar work on the album. Four other songs on this fourteen song project were recorded with the trio Youkali, which is comprised of virtuosic fiddle and bass players and of course Ms Oliva and her diverse accordion styles. The rest were recorded with a seven piece band who have gelled quick well on this project. Three of the songs that appear on this CD were on “Box Candy” as well, but far from being outtakes, they are new (to me) versions, much different than the previous renditions and stand on their own, especially “Each Part Was Played”, that has a kind of haunting “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” feel to it.
     Roxanne owns a home in Playa Negra and is here at various times throughout the year. Perhaps with some coaxing, we can convince her to perform some time while she is here. We’ll sweep up the crumbs, of course.
     Both of Roxanne Oliva’s CDs are available at Jaime Peligro book store in Playa Tamarindo, where they will gladly sample the music for their customers.