Costa Rica – GENERAL INFORMATION – Culture – Music Of Costa Rica

Music Costa Rica is a Central American country whose culture is a diverse mixture of African, European and native elements. Though its music has achieved little international renown, 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 popular among the youth, while dance-oriented genres like soca, salsa, merengue, marcado, lambada and cumbia are also popular. Tourists seeing folk dances generally watch the flamboyant Cambute or Botijuela Tamborito.Mexican music is very popular among elder people and some people in the countryside. During the middle years of the 20th century, Costa Rica was exposed to much Mexican cultural influence.

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 unique in its relatively quiet and restrained nature. Folk dances include a couples dance called the Punto Guanacasteco, which has been made the official national dance, and the popular cuadrille. Old traditional songs like “De la caña se hace el guaro”, “Pampa”, “Amor de Temporada” and “Luna Liberiana” are 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 Peninsula of Nicoya, is home to the most well-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’s Danza de los Huelos and the Boruca’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].

Popular music

Costa Rica’s population never developed a major rhythm or style that became a major part of popular music, nor has Costa Rica produced a great literary or other artistic tradition [3]. 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, like José Capmani, Café con Leche, Peregrino Gris, Inconciente Colectivo; some of them had fans from outside of Costa Rica, like Editus.

Music institutions

European classical music institutions include the Costa Rican Chamber Orchestra and the Costa Rican National Symphony Orchestra (formed in 1970); the country is also home to the first professional choir in Central America and the only state-subsidized youth orchestra in the Western World, the Sura Chamber Choir[4].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.