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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. 

In February there are two festivals down south near Uvita – when it rains it pours around here…. Now some folks don’t bother to research the acts performing, preferring to wander around and settle in to a live show when the spirit moves ‘em. Not me – I approach a festival (especially one with multiple stages or if I can only go for one day) like a military maneuver. These skills were honed at the New Orleans Jazz Fest where you can hear anything at their 12 or so stages – from how to make gumbo to drummers from Nigeria to Bonnie Raitt. The Envision Festival, held Feb. 20th to the 23rd, is kind of a mini Burning Man comes to the jungle – it’s all about yoga and music and dance and art and workshops on planetary and environmental issues. The music is geared more to the techno side, but they have cool light shows and acrobats and eclectic choices in their bands. 

Now, I gotta admit to being musically opinionated. Oh geez, I can see my friends smirking as I write that…. I have pleaded with Charley to just shoot me if he ever catches me playing at a Holiday Inn with a lame guitar player and his drum machine. Therefore I am sometimes resistant to music nowadays because it has become so dependent on computer generated sounds and rhythms. Which frankly, is just a few steps away from a stupid drum machine. However, I think there is a new approach coming from young players to use the electronic capabilities and options available to them instead of being used by them. Envision Fest is slightly heavier on the techno side, and the Best Fest presents a bit of everything, including young bands who are technically hip but also have something to say and play. 

CocoFunka

CocoFunka

The Best Fest (Feb. 7th – 9th) has totally upped the ante on the acts they have booked this year, and it is a kid-friendly event in a beautiful setting along the Costa Ballena. One of my favorite local bands, CocoFunka, will be there – these guys are big balls reggae done Costa Rican style. They don’t rely much on electronically enhanced instrumentation, they are high energy and very hip. Jerry Joseph and the Jackmormons are another good band that seem to emphasize lyrical and melodic substance over texture and mood. Jerry Joseph has been around for a while, and he’s likely to do a song with bongos and acoustic guitar followed by an in-your-face power trio rock song reminiscent of his buddies Widespread Panic. Ben Fagen and the Holy City Hooligans are another of my favorites – excellent vocals, funky, cool reggae and memorable lyrics. Check out Jami Sun, Van Ghost, and the guitar dominated, psychedelic, techno rock band the Werks.

Also take a look at the artwork for the posters and ads for the Best Fest.  Dominical artist Brian Sylvester combined a music theme with the traditional and modern masks made by the local Boruca Indians, and ended up with a really unique and interesting piece of art.  Let me tell you about these still isolated, independent, dignified artists and craftsmen and women from their small community deep in the Talamancas Mountains…..

The Borucas are descendants of one of the 12 ancient tribes living in Costa Rica, and their isolation helped them survive the rounding up of their people by the Spaniards looking for slaves. Even the Spanish obsession with finding gold and conquering indigenous peoples didn’t stand a chance against the high jungle mountains and the low swamplands they had to travel through to get to the Borucan Indians. The ancient Borucan hierarchy included healers, warriors, laborers, and craftsmen capable of advanced metal work, weaving and ceramics. The masks made by the Borucans are scary looking, and many assumed they were devil worshipers. But actually they wore them to symbolize their protection from the Spanish, who are represented by a guy dressed as a large bull. In their three days of dance and celebration held before Christmas, the devils pester the bull until it kills them all, then they come back to life one by one and eventually kill the bull for good.  Kind of weirdly reminiscent of the old Christian stories of resurrection…  

Modern day Borucas carve the traditional masks, but also include animals and nature themes to keep the bad spirits away and to protect their people, their environment and the animals that live there. Artist Brian Sylvester took it one step further by incorporating musical symbols into his painting – drums for eyes, a guitar for a nose, a peace sign on the forehead…. They have many excellent weavers in their community, and use dyes made from natural sources such as plants and snails to color their textiles. The Borucas also make fine sounding drums, using hollowed out cedar or balsa trunks, with cow hide stretched over the two ends. In earlier times they used wild peccary hide and rope to secure the skins. The drums have a great sound and are light and fairly small, so are easy to carry on their 3 day dance/drum bash. 

Best Fest - Boruca inspired artwork

Best Fest – Boruca inspired artwork

Music and art and history and nature and fun are all tangled up together – which is a wonderful thing. Support for all these endeavors is a super wonderful thing, for which we are all thankful…. 

Check out the websites for the festivals, and if you are interested, go to www.borucacostarica.org, www.Boruca.org or www.bsylvesterart.com

Thanks for supporting live music in our little part of the planet! Ben Orton and I play most every Friday night at the beautiful Roca Verde in Dominical, and my honky-tonk partner Kim Carson will be around here for a couple of months playing gigs with us, so please come out and party with us!

We continue. We continue fighting because there are many things that strike us and try to destroy us, but we continue to fight despite it all. We fight to maintain – to maintain our culture, to be united for the well-being of our culture. Damaris Morales, Borucan teacher.

I feel happy because I know that in the heart of everyone that comes with me they leave with something in their hearts, just like everyone in my community has.  Roy Morales, Borucan mask maker and guide.

We are not myths of the past, ruins in the jungle or zoos. We are people and we want to be respected, not victims of intolerance and racism.  Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Guatemalan Nobel Peace Prize winner


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