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Wedding Music

wedding ringsBy Nancy Buchan

Wedding season here is kind of fizzling out, but I think it was a good one for the local event planners and for us musicians who enjoy playing weddings. It’s amazing how many folks come to this beautiful area for their nuptials – but then, who wouldn’t like to escape the northern cold and get hitched barefoot on a beach on a sunny day? Destination weddings are a big industry – a more adventurous experience for the participants, and even with airfare they are probably far cheaper than the same kind of event in the states. Geesh, they probably save a fortune in flowers and fruit alone. Many Costa Rican hotels cater specifically to wedding groups, and there are a bunch of professional wedding planners here who will take care of all the pesky details and customize the day to whatever the client wants. After all, it’s their date with destiny . . . their public and optimistic declaration of love and coupleness. Their ‘too late to turn back now, let’s bite the bullet’ moment.

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Ukulele

ukuleleBy Nancy Buchan

In the fine tradition of traveling minstrels, a lot of interesting looking folks with musical instruments have been passing through our little town of Dominical, locally known as Dysfunction Junction. Some of them linger for a while, playing at a bonfire on the beach, or blissed out dancing at the Envision Festival or boogying at Best Fest, or sharing an original song with the fascinated locals at the bus stop. Most guitar manufacturers now routinely offer backpacker instruments for the musical traveler who doesn’t want to be laden down, but they are often pricey and frankly are not really close to being able to cope with the jungle stuff here that assaults wood and glue and metal. So, the coolest choice of instrument must surely be the humble yet powerful ukulele. I’ve seen lots of them lately – they are small and lightweight, inexpensive yet pretty darned durable, and they have this infectious happy quality that just makes people smile. And the nylon strings don’t hurt your fingers!

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This is Spinal Tap

This is Spinal TapBy Nancy Buchan

The most true-to-life and hilarious movie ever made about musicians is called This is Spinal Tap. If you have never seen it, get on your computer and order it, or run right out and buy a copy – it should be required viewing for all family and girlfriends or boyfriends of rock musicians.  Largely improvised, it was presented as a ‘rockumentary’, but was actually a parody of rock documentaries, directed by Rob Reiner in 1984. It chronicled the travels and successes and excesses of an English heavy metal band called Spinal Tap, and satirizes their wild personal behavior and musical pretentions. It is also the basis for many musician ‘inside’ jokes and quotes – have you ever heard guitar players talking about turning their amp up to 11, or a band singing “Big Bottoms – My Baby’s Got ‘Em”? Metallica made a black album in homage to Tap’s “Smell the Glove” black cover, Steve Tyler thought it was too true to be funny, and U2 guitarist The Edge said he didn’t laugh at it, he wept, because it summed up what a brainless swamp big-label rock music had become. Amazingly, it was deemed “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant” by the US Library of Congress and is preserved in the National Film Registry. The sad thing is, I’ve heard musicians (after watching the movie) ask where they can catch the band…hello, it was made in Hollywood – it’s a movie – there was no real band called Spinal Tap until after the movie came out and the actors (who could actually play their instruments) did some special appearances. One of the running gags in the movie is that their drummers keep dying in mysterious and odd circumstances – one drummer from spontaneous human combustion that left a globule on the drum seat, another in a bizarre gardening accident…. It’s a very funny movie.  

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Death & Music

Second Line ParadeBy Nancy Buchan

There’s a whole mess of annoying crap that happens to us as we get older.  First it’s the vision thing.  You can’t see worth a darn, then when you do get the appropriate glasses, you’re always putting them down somewhere where you can’t find them. I can’t read music without them, or change a string, or even tell how cute that guy is in the middle of the audience who keeps winking at me. Or maybe he’s just got eye problems like me, thanks so much for the reality check. Most musicians suffer from a bit a hearing loss if they’ve been standing next to the drummer for years or play electric guitar with the amp turned up to 10. Usually the loss is at either end of the auditory spectrum – the highs and lows of pitch. When I was younger I loved being right next to the drummer, especially if he was a slamming rock all-over-the-place kind of player. “Bring it on” was my motto then – now it’s “huh? Say again, I can’t hear you…”

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Local Music Fests

Envision Fest

Envision Festival

By Nancy Buchan

Best wishes to all for a fun-filled and prosperous 2014! Now I may be too broke to pay attention, but I can help with the fun part! There are three music festivals coming up in January and February in our area that are guaranteed to be fun! In the December issue of this fine magazine I wrote about The Jungle Jam music event in Jaco that happens Jan. 16th – 19th. Read my article about the festival and go to their website to listen to the bands that will be performing there – like this beautiful country, the line-up is very diverse.  There is a jam band theme, but this year has some interesting new acts and it is in a beautiful setting at the Doce Lunas Resort. 

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We Be Jammin’!

Bob MarleyBy Nancy Buchan

The great Jamaican musician Bob Marley wrote a song back in the late 70’s about jamming. It was a celebration of sorts – an enthusiastic anthem for the Rastafari movement and an effort to take music outside of the socially deprived areas of Jamaica to an international audience and help foster regional peacefulness. He says the word jammin’ about 35 times in the song, but here are some of the other lyrics – “I wanna jam it wid you and I hope you like jammin’ too… Ain’t no rules, ain’t no vow, we can do it anyhow, I and I will see you through. ‘Cos every day we pay the price with a little sacrifice…”

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What the Funk?

The Funk Brothers

The Funk Brothers

By Nancy Buchan

When my godson Travis called and invited us to his wedding in Los Angeles, and asked me to play the violin for the ceremony, I was thrilled at the prospect of getting out of the relentless rain here and honored to be asked to play for his nuptials. After all, he asked Kate to marry him while on the beach in Dominical last year, after waiting 5 days for the perfect sunset! Both of them musicians, they even sat in with the Howlers one Wednesday night at Dos Locos! As an extra incentive to get me to California – like I needed one – he said the reception/party band was The Funk Brothers, and that after I played for the ceremony, surely I could sit in with them. And that there would be cool food trucks doing the catering. And that it would not rain.  

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Unity in Diversity

Playing with Orquesta del Rio Infinito

Playing with Orquesta del Rio Infinito

By Nancy Buchan

Diversity is a word that describes this beautiful country of Costa Rica in many, many ways. Thankfully we don’t have scorching hot summers or snowy winters, but our rainfall can go from almost nothing to huge amounts seasonally, and botanists and biologists just love prowling around this place in search of new weird plants or bugs or critters. Costa Rica has more than 35,000 species of insects, and those are just the ones that scientists have named. Yikes. 10% of the world’s butterflies live here – a lot of them in my yard! Global warming and a funky skin fungus are chipping away at the frog population, but there’s around 160 species of amphibians. The reptile world here includes 220 species of snakes – several not very nice ones – and we’ve got plenty of lizards, including my personal favorite, the Basilisk or Jesus lizard. My husband Charley has one of those guys tattooed on his ankle, however so far he hasn’t been able to walk on water. 

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Coconuts!

hammock under a coconut palmBy Nancy Buchan

The humble coconut is truly a wondrous gift to those of us who dwell in the tropics.  Sometimes when I’m ‘reading’ in my hammock, I’ll be awakened, oops I mean startled, by the shwoosh sound and solid thump of a coconut falling to the ground nearby. Good thing though if you hear that thump, ‘cause at least it means you’re not dead by coconut….

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Radio in Costa Rica

Living here is often challenging.  Try to find decent violin strings that aren’t already rusted.  Locate a drum head that hasn’t been on a shelf for 4 years soaking up the abundant moisture in the air.  Figure out how to find the music for a Bach piece without a credit card or a computer.  Ah, but these are petty little issues compared to the fear factor and annoyance factor of driving and owning a car here in Costa Rica.  Especially in the rainy season.

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Rain

By Nancy Buchan

Yahoo it’s rainy season here again!  Of course some folks feel the need to move on to drier and safer pastures, but many of us rejoice in the growth and beauty and messiness the rains inspire.  And just in case we need a reminder that we are mere grains of sand on this beach called Life, Mother Nature will re-establish her dominance and toss us around like the soggy children that we are.  Manuel Antonio and Quepos can get 16.5 feet of rain annually, and averages 17 inches in June.  It gets very elemental here.  Sometimes scary and dangerous.  Exhilerating and humbling.   And the strings on your guitar will rust. 

calvin rain

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Bird Song…?

Rufous-vented_ChachalacaBy Nancy Buchan

Every once in a while I’ll be rudely jolted out of a blissful sleep at like 5 in the freaking morning by the incredibly loud call/song/RACKET being produced by what I call the Maniacal bird.  He mostly hangs out under dense foliage, and apparently likes to walk and talk right by my bedroom window.  He’s got this raspy, rusty-hinge kind of voice for part of his call, then a weird whoop whoop thing and tops it off with a long anguished note that can wake the proverbial dead.  It’s not quite as obnoxious as Woody Woodpeckers cackle in the old cartoons, but it’s definitely in the same category.   I finally saw him one morning, traveling on the ground under a papaya tree and a tangle of hibiscus, and he is about a foot tall, has a long skinny neck, he’s shades of non-descript brown and a pretty clumsy flyer.   I looked him up in my tattered bird bible, A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica, and he’s called a Chachalaca.   Boom cha cha laca laca, boom cha cha laca laca.  (Anybody remember Sly and the Family Stone?)  Anyway, de-forestation of his habitat is taking its toll, and some species in his family are on a fast track to extinction – which would be a horrible thing ‘cause to tell ‘ya the truth I’ve come to enjoy his boisterous concerts,  which is kinda like saying you like the sound of bagpipes  or fingernails on a chalkboard. 

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Women & Music

Envision FestivalBy Nancy Buchan

While happily slopping through the ankle deep mud at the Envision Festival I started talking with a young woman about why she was there.  It was clear early in our conversation that she was smart and politically active about all kinds of things back in her home turf of Portland.  She was open-minded about music, passionate about social and environmental issues and she was off on an adventure!  She could even play that flute she had hanging around her neck.   I started talking to more of the women there, and found most all of them to be very together.  Creative types of course – their clothes were weird and wonderful and whimsical.  They were adorned with feathers and lace and leather and crystals and tattoos and face paint and pierced body parts, yet they were mostly independent savvy young women who will probably evolve into women of substance.  I don’t go stateside very often and probably don’t hang out in the same world as these females, so I was pleasantly surprised to meet so many funny and hip young things, and am happy about their activism and commitment to global issues.  Me, I was just there to hear some music…..

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IT

By Nancy Buchan

There’s a generosity of spirit – a musical selflessness – that sets some musicians apart from their equally skilled fellow musicians. They have an uncanny ability to affect people emotionally through their playing or singing, and this is why we turn to music in the first place – to have an emotional experience.  Sometimes they are described as a ‘real musician’, or maybe a ‘musician’s musician’. Or they are said to have that elusive thing called ‘charisma’ or ‘star power’. That kind of trivializes their abilities, and I’m not really talking about commercial success or pop stardom – I’m talking about the power to tap into our deep wells of emotion and make us feel sadness and hope and all those things in between. 

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Nearby Music Festivals

By Nancy Buchan 

Going to an outdoor music festival is just about as much fun as a person can stand.  Whether you’re dancing to a circle of banjo players pickin’ some fine bluegrass in the Colorado mountains, or laying in a lounge chair sipping a drink with a little umbrella in it on the French Riviera, listening to some cool jazz cats – it’s fun!  The opportunity to hear a bunch of different artists at one venue is irresistible.  Even if there’s 12 stages going on all at once (like the wonderful New Orleans Jazz Fest) and you have to approach it like some kind of military maneuver, it’s fun!  There are lots of interesting festivals being held all over the planet – for just about any genre of music.  Some of them showcase other artistic endeavors besides music, many have ecological or planetary themes, or maybe they’re concerned with our spiritual health…  Anyway, there are a couple of interesting new or newish festivals being held in our little part of the world I want to tell ya’ll about.  

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