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 and is available at the Jaime Peligro bookstores in Playa Tamarindo, Quepos, and Nuevo Arenal. Check out their Facebook site at Tamarindo Jaime Peligro.