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Costa Rican Music

Costa Rican music is rather diverse and appeals to many different groups. There are many types of music found in Costa Rica that appeal to different generations. For example, the urban youth of Costa Rica enjoy: Reggae, Rock, SKA, Punk, Metal, Rap, Hip Hop and Reggeaton. The older crowds tend to enjoy: Merengue, Salsa, Soca, Cumbia, Rumba, Bachata, Classical and Tex-Mex. Those who live in more remote areas of the country tend towards more folkloric music such as:Calypso, Marimba, Folkloric, Afro-Caribbeano, and Guanacasteco.


As in most Latin American countries, music is a integral part of Costa Rican culture. Music is something that unites Costa Ricans of all ages. Music in Costa Rica is highly influenced by its neighbors Cuba, Mexico, and Colombia. In major celebrations such as baby showers, weddings, 15th or 50th birthday celebrations Mexican style Mariachi bands come to play typical songs. Ticos are known for their love of dance, so they have to have quality music to accompany. In almost any club you will hear Reggaeton blarring. To see a listing of dance clubs/discos click here.

One will hear a variety of types of music being played where ever you are whether it be in a restaurant, taxi, at a dance club, or simply walking down the street. It seems like in Costa Rica they have a song for everything. The young school children are taught several hundred songs to help them learn about Costa Rican history and promote national pride.

If you would like to hear the Costa Rican National Anthem with English subtitles click here.

Music programs at University level are very prestigious. Both the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR), in San José, and the Universidad Nacional (UNA), in Heredia, have well-structured programs in Music. There students can pursue bachelor's degrees in instrumental and vocal performing, composition, and conducting or study for doctoral degree in Central American Arts and Letters, with an emphasis in Music.

However, Costa Ricans have never developed their own distinct sounds, rather they feed off music that is created in Latin America and Latin American style. This is not to say that there are not any world-class bands and performers that come from Costa Rica. Some of the biggest bands in rock such as Metallica and Guns & Roses will preform in Costa Rica in 2010. Pavarotti preformed in 2004.

Some of the most well known or even internationally renowned groups include: Gandhi, Tango India, Malpais, Editus, Tico Jazz Band, Banda Rock Las Tortugas, Skala Grupo Musical, Grupo Musical Kahle, Grupo Musical Pura VidaGrupo GaviotaSasha Cambell Barr, Gerardo y los Hicsos, Mustang65,  and Grupo Marfil.

Folkloric Music

The African-derived marimba is the most  popular instrument in Costa Rican folk music. A marimba is a percussion instrument that looks very similar to a xylophone and makes a very cheery tune. Most of the folk music in Costa Rica is very positive and up beat. Groups like Cantares bring authentic Costa Rican folk music to the world. Costa Rican folk songs usually cover themes such as: stories, recipes, nicknames, anecdotes, tongue twisters and old customs. Enjoying Costa Rican folk music is a must on a trip to Costa Rica.

To watch a video of a typical Costa Rican group playing the marimba click here.

To listen to some of Costa Rica´s most famous hymns and songs click here.

Calypso Style
This style of music is mainly found on the Caribbean coast. The music is rooted in African rhythms that use steel drums and reggae beats. Needless to say Reggae and Bob Marley are also extremely popular on the Caribbean Coast.  The Calypso style originates from a root of  Afro-Caribbean music in which the slaves of Trinidad sang to communicate stories and pass on their culture. One of Costa Rica's most well known artists in the area of Calypso is Walter Ferguson from Cahuita. His songs are riddled with anecdotes about his deprived childhood in poverty stricken Panama and are an excellent demonstration of Afro-Caribbean culture.


Jazz is one of the more popular types of music in Costa Rica. There are many groups dedicated to Jazz and for this reason many venues opened up for them. In San Pedro and Escazu there is a Jazz Cafe which features Jazz and other up and coming artists. There are also several restaurants in Escazu that have opened up for Jazz sets. On one of Costa Rica's most popular singing competitions sponsored by Canal 7, Cantando por un Sueño (Singing for a Dream) the Tico Jazz Band provided the back up music for all the artists.

Classical Music
Costa Rica started appearing in the world stage of classical music in the 1970's with the national symphony orchestra, formed by the American Gerald brown. Of all the genres of music in Costa Rica, Costa Rica might be best known for their classical music on the world stage. The Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional has received international acclaim under the direction of its current conductor, Chosei Komatsu. The Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional is considered one of the most talented orchestras in all of Latin America. The Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional performs in the Teatro Nacional and often features world renowned guests such as violinist José Castillo and classical guitarist Pablo Ortíz, who often play together. It is main season is April through November, with concerts on Thursday and Friday evenings, plus Saturday matinees. Internationally, they performs giving concerts in the White House USA, Carniegie Hall, to the Kings of Spain, have held concerts with Luciano Pavarotti, the Royal family of Japan, etc. Proudly,  they also perform in the regional areas and underdeveloped countries, teaching classical music. In addition to their live performances, they offer various CD's.

Since Costa Rica does not have a military budget they are able to spend more on the arts and consequently have created the only state-subsidized youth orchestra in the Western world. Costa Rica also has a Youth Symphony Orchestra, which was founded by ex President Jose Figueres Ferrer in the 1970. Concertina Ana Gabriela Castro-Rosabal was the first Costa Rican, 4 year old, girl to preform. For her debut she did a solo of Mozart on the violin under the direction of director Gerald Brown.

The Teatro Mozart in San Jose and the Costa Rican and North American Cultural Center also host classical music concerts.

National Talent

Click here to find out about current musicians and their events in Costa Rica.

Musical Festivals

The idea of music festivals is quickly catching on in Costa Rica, even though there are very few venues that can hold a decent crowd. Many organizers are looking to have festivals set up in the rain forest or at the beach to take advantage of the natural beauty Costa Rica has to offer. In recent years the government, led by the Ministerio de Cultura, has aimed to revitalize traditional Costa Rican music.

Costa Rica hosts an International Festival of Music during the last two weeks of August (P.O. Box 979-'007, tel. 2282-7724, fax 2282-4574, email:;

There's also an annual six-week-long Monteverde Music Festival, tel. 2645-5125, each January-February, combining classical with jazz and swing. It's held at the Hotel Fonda Vela, in Monteverde. Book early.


Here is a very popular rap song written and produced in Costa Rica that criticizes in a very harsh way the traffic police's corruption and how they receive bribes instead of issuing traffic here to here to hear this one.


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