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Music of Costa Rica

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Title: Music of Costa Rica  
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Subject: Music of Honduras, Music of El Salvador, Music of Panama, Music of the Dominican Republic, Music of Puerto Rico
Collection: Costa Rican Music
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Music of Costa Rica

The country of Costa Rica has many kinds of music.

Music of Costa Rica Topics
Calypso Rock
Soca Rumba
Reggaeton Hip hop K-pop
Pop Cumbia
Merengue Salsa
Bachata Classical music
Tex-Mex Guanacaste
Marimba music Folklorico
Afro-Caribbean music Metal
Punk Ska
Timeline and Samples
Central American music
Belize - Costa Rica - El Salvador - Guatemala - Honduras - Nicaragua - Panama

Though its music has achieved little international credit, Costa Rican popular music genres include: an indigenous calypso scene which is distinct from the more widely known Trinidadian calypso sound, as well as a thriving disco audience that supports nightclubs in cities like San José. American and British rock and roll and pop are very popular and common among the youth (especially urban youth), while dance-oriented genres like soca, salsa, merengue, cumbia and Tex-Mex have an appeal among a somewhat older audience.

Mexican music is very popular among older people and some people in the countryside. During the middle years of the 20th century, Costa Rica was exposed to much Mexican cultural influence.

Another new genre explored in Costa Rica is Celtic with the group Peregrino Gris.


  • Folk Music 1
  • Classical music 2
  • Music institutions 3
  • References 4

Folk Music

The Caribbean coast shows a strong African influence in the complex percussion rhythms like sinkit. Like its northerly neighbors in Central America, the marimba is a very popular instrument, and Costa Rican marimba music is very popular. In modern times, groups like Cantares have helped to popularize Costa Rican folk music, and were a leading part of the New Costa Rican Song movement [1].

Costa Rica's pre-Columbian population has contributed a large part of the country's folk heritage, include rare musical scales, certain ceremonial songs and ocarinas. The Guanacaste region, in the Nicoya Peninsula, is home to the best-known folk traditions. Along the Atlantic coast, the African musical heritage is more pronounced, and Afro-Caribbean music like rumba, calypso and reggae are popular.

In most of Costa Rica, ancient instruments like ocarinas are being replaced by international instruments like accordions and guitars. There are still folk styles, even outside of Guanacaste, such as the Talamanca (canton)'s Danza de los Huelos and the Boruca people's Danza de los Diablitos.

Guanacaste is the major center for Costa Rican folk music, especially pre-Columbian styles like the Danza del Sol and Danza de la Luna of the Chorotega, who also popularized the ancient quijongo (a single-string bow and gourd resonator) and native oboe, the chirimia [2].

Costa Rica's population never developed a major rhythm or style that became a major part of popular music, but there have been exceptions, such as the Costa Rican landscape school of painting in the 1920s. The Andean peña tradition (an international gathering of like-minded persons) is strong in Costa Rica as well, introduced by immigrants from Chile and Argentina.

In the late 1980s some local artists and bands became famous for having their own style and original material, such as José Capmany, Distorsión, Café con Leche, Modelo Para Armar and Inconsciente Colectivo; some of them had fans from outside of Costa Rica, like Editus, a Grammy winning contemporary jazz ensemble. At around that time a popular Latin genre developed, chiqui-chiqui (a mixture of merengue, cumbia and other Latin rhythms along with afro-pop influences) as it was known, led by bands such as Los Hicsos,Jaque Mate, La Pandylla, Manantial and La Banda with well-known classic hits such as La Avispa, El cangrejo, Julieta, El criticon, El hula hula etc. After losing popularity around the 1990s, chiqui chiqui has resurfaced and established itself as one of the most popular and recognizable music among Costa Ricans, thanks in part to the release of CD re-editions of many classic hits. Some examples of Costa Rican hits with Chiqui chiqui gender

                  Band                       Song

Hicsos El hula hula, La Banda La Avispa, Jaque Mate El cangrejo, La pandylla El criticon, Los abejorros La fiesta, Manantial Julieta, Jaque mate El pipiripao, La Pandylla A comer mamey.

From the late 90's to present time, there has emerged a newer local rock style led by bands such as

Costa Rica has become a centerfold for international Metal concerts. Bands such as Anthrax, Cannibal Corpse, Gamma Ray, Masterplan, Kreator, Epica, Therion and Sodom have come to play in the country. It became better with the coming of Iron Maiden back in 2008. With that concert, Costa Rica is now becoming an important stop for Metal bands. Examples of this are Metallica, Amon Amarth and Megadeth.

Also bands venturing into Reggae and Ska are popular, one example is Mekatelyu and Michael Livingston.

Malpaís, a band emerging from the Guanacaste-area, is one of the central bands of the Costa Rican rock and music scene of today, mixing traditional Costa Rican folk and Latin music with jazz and rock and has met great success in Costa Rica and surrounding countries. Cantoamerica is a band led by Manuel Monestel that for many years has developed research and promotion of the music of the Costa Rican Caribbean coast. Calypso music and other caribbean sounds are included in the band´s repertoire. Cantoamerica has traveled all over the world as ambassador of Afro Costa Rican music.

For all the fanfare of rock, electronic or world music, Latin music is somehow the most common music genre in some specific sectors, and visitors will find that most Costa Ricans of certain generations favor Latin music (Cuban, Mexican and Colombian).

Costa Rica's music also includes hip hop. Such artist as Sirius the Dogg Starr, Tiko305, Crypy 626, Huba, Toledo, Gtermis (Ragga by Roots) and hip hop producers such as Kastro, JonDeejay, Del Bloke, DJ P have a huge Hip Hop influence in their music. Many of these artists have recorded and produced for local artists and international artists.

Classical music

Costa Rica also has a youth symphony orchestra, founded by ex-President Jose Figueres Ferrer in the 1970. "Concertina Ana Gabriela Castro-Rosabal" was the first 4 year old girl/ child/Costa Rican to direct the Youth Symphony Orchestra into tuning in its 1970 Debut, and first 4-year-old violin soloist to play Mozart under the direction of director Gerald Brown. Violinist Ana Gabriela Castro-Rosabal, master in violin performance was the key performer for the youth symphony orchestra Debut in 1970. "La niña violinista del Taburete" was how newspapers used to refer to 4-year-old violin "Concertina Ana Gabriela Castro-Rosabal". This affectionate title, was given due to the fact, that she was so small, that she used a wooden box, made by her father Enrique, to rest her feet. The wooden box, became the "symbol" of how young this talented

Music institutions

Costa Rican National Symphony Orchestra (formed in 1970), which has been conducted by Americans Gerald Brown and Irwin Hoffman, and currently by the Japanese music director, Chosei Komatsu. The country is also home to an opera company, one of the first professional choirs in Central America, and a state-subsidized youth orchestra, which belongs to the National Symphony Orchestra. The Universidad de Costa Rica has a concert band and an orchestra, besides an early-music group and several chamber music groups. The National University, Universidad Nacional, has a resident string quartet and a Symphony Orchestra which had its very successful premiere at the National Theatre in San José on May 10, 2007, conducted by Dieter Lehnhoff. It has also a highly successful piano school led by the Russian virtuoso, Alexandr Sklioutovsky. Other well-known groups are the El Café Chorale and the Sura Chamber Choir[3] and also the pianist Ismael Pacheco, who was the second Costa Rican pianist to have been performed at the prestigious Carnegie Hall in 2001 and also at the Musikverein in 2007. [4].

Both the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR), in San José, and the Universidad Nacional (UNA), in Heredia, have well-structured programmes in Music, where students can pursue bachelor's degrees in instrumental and vocal performing, composition, and conducting. The latter also has a doctoral degree in Central American Arts and Letters, with an emphasis in Music.

Contemporary composers include Mario Alfagüell, Marvin Camacho, Alejandro Cardona, Bernal Flores, Benjamín Gutiérrez, Luis Diego Herra, and Eddie Mora, to name but a few.

Costa Rican folk institutions include the Fantasía Folklorica. Every August, Costa Rica is home to an International Festival of Music.

In recent years the government, led by the Ministerio de Cultura, has aimed to revitalize traditional Costa Rican music.


  • is a costarrican online magazine about alternative music and pop culture.
  • is the Costa Rica rock website, here you can find info about practically any Costa Rican Rock Band
  • is a Social Network that promotes Costa Rican Music
  • Time's Forgotten Official Website
  • National Artist Debi Nova
  • Benjamín Gutiérrez Sáenz Project (Dedicated to Costa Rica's Contemporary Music)
  • LA RETRETA, Academic Music Magazine of Costa Rica
  • Costa Rica Music Festival
  • Costa Rica Arts & Culture
  • is an official site for information on Costa Rican music and local bands.
  • Ismael Pacheco Official Website
  • Grupo MalPais Official Website
  • Events Calendar of Costa Rica
  • Costa Rica's National Symphony Orchestra Official Website
  • Ópera De Cámara de Costa Rica
  • Anayanci Quirós, Costa Rican Soprano
  • Peregrino Gris Official Website
  • Papaya Music Record Label
  • Hotel de la música Costa Rica, music sessions


  • [Campos Fonseca, Susan: “Historia compensatoria y Filosofía: Un caso centroamericano”, en BABAB, Nº33, verano, España, 2008, ISSN · 1575-9385. Disponible en:]
  • [Campos Fonseca, Susan: ““Com-poner” la historia sonora de un país”. Disponible en:]
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