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Costa Ricans love to dance, sing and party. The foundation of native music in Costa Rica is based on the “marimba,” an African-derived, xylophone-style instrument. Costa Rican folk songs are nostalgic and have a ballad-like melody. The lyrics praise the beauty of the country, their people, the landscape, and often talk about the work it takes to grow the crops and to cultivate coffee. This country has a national “passion for coffee, the grain of gold,” so it is not unusual to hear references to the beans in music lyrics, poetry, literature or everyday conversation.

The sound of marimba, combined with the sounds of steel drums, reggae beats and other instruments of the Caribbean creates a very special and festive sound.

  • The Costa Rican national folk dance, the “Punto Guanacaste,” composed by Leandro Cabalceta Brau, is a heel-and-toe stomping dance for couples. This folk dance is often performed in theaters and at special occasions.
  • However, it is a popular dance in rural settings where couples may wear the traditional costumes for the occasion.
  • The dance portrays courting traditions of the past where the male dancer follows the female partner. The female dancer pretends to get away from the male who periodically shouts “¡Bomba !” The music stops so the male can recite praises or “bombas” to his lady.
  • These praises tend to be humorous and draw cheers and applauses from the audience. They can also draw spontaneous participation from the audience with general laughter and more cheer. An example of a traditional “bomba” is “…They say that you don’t love me because I don’t have a mustache. Tomorrow I shall put one on made out of buzzard feathers…”

Other popular music genres in Costa Rica include: Rock ‘n roll (music from the USA from the 1940’s and 1950’s). Latin alternative rock, Pop (popular music). Calypso (Afro-Caribbean music from Trinidad Tobago). Disco (dance music from the 1970’s). Salsa (modern style Cuban playing rhythms). Meringue (music and dance originally from the Dominican Republic). Cumbia (Colombian musical style and folk dance). Soca (soul calypso in the form of dance music). Chiqui-Chiqui (a mixture of meringue, cumbia, and afro-pop tones). Tex-Mex, Mexican music, Tangos, and even Celtic music.

Costa Rica is also a country with a passion for theatrical performances and drama.

  • The “Peña” is an intellectual style or type of performance that is interesting for the way it blends music with spoken word and poetry.
  • The “Peña” was introduced by Chilean and Argentinean exiles living in Costa Rica.
  • The “Peña” promotes the participation of the audience and is a favorite of cafés, where moving songs are shared all around the table.
  • Coffee, beverages, tears from laughter or emotion and much clapping are always part of the scene.
  • In the Costa Rican tradition, “Café Con Leche” is included in menus and ranks high in domestic consumption at cafés, day and night.

Costa Rica’s night life, particularly in the larger cities, buzzes with live music ranging from traditional Latin rhythms to classical symphonies at the spectacular National Theater in San José. In the early morning, as the towns come to life, one thing you can be sure will fill the air everywhere is the exquisite smell of fresh bread and recently brewed coffee. Because most towns are small and the cafés are literally everywhere, there is no escaping the fragrance of delicious coffee ready for the asking! Of course, who wants to escape the wonderful aroma of coffee?

So, what are you waiting for? As they say in Costa Rica, “Pura Vida!” (Pure Life): go ahead and enjoy a delicious cup of Costa Rican Tarrazu or Costa Rican SHB Decaffeinated gourmet coffee!

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