Music and Dance in Costa Rica, Part 1

Music plays everywhere in Costa Rica, and you will hear it whether you want to or not. They play it in the bars, in the restaurants, and it even from stores, appliance stores to clothing shops. To gringo ears, much of “Latin” music sounds the same. But make no mistake, there are many distinct styles and the locals can tell the difference in a heartbeat.

Probably the most “Costa Rican” of all styles is the Costa Rican “Cumbia”. Colombia also has its Cumbia, but the Costa Rican version is unmistakable once you learn to recognize it. As in much of “Latin” music, the rhythm is the determining element. For Cumbia, the rhythm has a strong 4 4 CHIK chiky CHIK chiky CHIK chiky CHIK beat, with the CHICKs coming on the 1 and 3 along with a cowbell or woodblock accent.

There is something that happens to a lot of Ticos and Ticas when they hear a Cumbia… They begin to move, sometimes hopping up and down and even dancing if they have enough room. The video shows championship level Cumbia dancers doing their stuff. A lot of the fancier moves aren’t ones you’ll see in the dance clubs, but the basic Cumbia is there, starting about the time the vocals come in. It’s a lively dance and requires some instruction and/or practice to do even passably.

There are many other styles that you will hear, but we can save that for later. Until then, work on your Cumbia.

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