The Gentle Swing of Rialengo
The first time I listened to “Musica Profana”, the new CD by Rialengo, I found myself being impressed time and again by the vocal and instrumental harmonies and the seamless, gentle flow of the melodies. The music is a mesh of Cumbia, from Colombia, and Swing Criolla, which itself is a marriage of Peruvian Criolla and American swing music, all blended in a Costa Rican, Latin stew. Francisco Murrillo, the singer, and songwriter of the band, has a perfect voice to portray this flowing music. Francisco was born in Rialengo, a neighborhood in Guapiles, on the road to Limon, on the Caribbean shore of Costa Rica.
The ten song disc reaches out still further musically, embracing influences from such diverse styles as Reggae, electronica, straight-forward Rock and even rap, all the while not losing its Swing Criolla backbone. And the music simply floats along a very Caribbean sensation, indeed. The opening “Intro” sets the mood right away, followed by “Cumbia” with the vocal harmonies of Bernardo Quesada and Karla Gutierrez.
The use of female accompaniment on vocals is a very nice vehicle for this style of music, the harmonics blending beautifully with Francisco’s voice. Guitarist Carlos Delgado shows his expertise throughout the disc, especially on the reggae-influenced “Andar el Camino” and the rocky “La Malacrianza”; Carlos has been a part of the Costa Rican music scene for more than two decades, bringing an impressive resume with him, having played and recorded with too many names to list here, so I will only mention Manuel Obregon, Ray Tico, Perrozompopo, The Escats, Jazz Garbo and Bernardo Quesada, who co-produced the album with the band and sings back-up on many of the songs. Quesada recently released “Donde Te Espera Mi Nombre” with Rumba Jam, another swing Criolla CD, but of a more metropolitan sound, with more brass and horns. I would consider the two albums more complimentary than competitive.
But back to Rialengo and its diverse, smooth groove. I like the accompaniment of Hector Murillo on accordion on the song “Fin del Mundo” and the suave clarinet playing by Checko Davila on “Musica Profana” to lend to the sound of the American Swing era. I also think the exemplary keyboard work by Nelson Alvarez helps give this harmonic music a rich, full texture throughout the album. And guest appearances by Guadalupe Urbina, Yaco, and Perrozompopo add to the disc’s diversity, as well as giving a nod of approval from these seasoned veterans. The fact that Papaya Music, one of the premiere labels in Central America, has decided to distribute this project also speaks a lot about its potential.
Swing Criolla is definitely undergoing a revival, potentially putting the musical genre and its accompanying dance style on the international map. When it does, Rialengo and the aforementioned Rumba Jam will be there to take their bows, and then, who knows, possibly go on a world tour together. Until then, their CDs are available at the Jaime Peligro bookstores in Playa Tamarindo, Quepos, and Nuevo Arenal, where they will gladly sample the music for their customers. Any comments concerning this article are welcomed. Check our Tamarindo Jaime Peligro site on Facebook.