Book ReviewJim ParisiMusic Review

A Musical Journey in Costa Rica

SoluneBy Jim Parisi

Steph Solune is a well-known Costa Rican DJ who incorporates World Music into his mix. Born in France, Solune moved to Costa Rica several years ago. He enjoys taking chances and exploring new realms. He is also a man of diverse ideas. His newest side-project, “Costa Rica: Cuaderno de Viaje – Travel Diary” is Steph’s personal notebook during his travels. It combines Costa Rican images with his own words in book form, along with a musical CD of Costa Rican musicians that represent a broad spectrum of the wealth and breadth of musical genres that this relatively small country has to offer. The musical styles on the disc range from cumbia to reggae and calypso to Guanacastecan folkloric to Garifuna and even some Latin funk. The music offers an interesting geographic panorama that demonstrates the regional sounds of Costa Rica as the book travels from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean.

Jaime Peligro Books and Music

The book’s graphics, illustrations (mostly color pencil & watercolor paints combined) and drawings are done by Solune with a few photos supplied by Sergio Pucci and Luciano Capelli. The text is also written by Solune with a little help from Alvaro Paseyro. The travel diary includes entries from San Jose and the central valley as well as from the Osa Peninsula, Arenal, Limon and Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean side, Guanacaste and the central Pacific area and Manuel Antonio National Park. The entire book is presented in Spanish and English, side by side.

The album opens with two songs from Calavera y la Canalla. “El Camino” is an up-tempo song, a great way to kick of the CD, followed by “El Gallito” by this young and upcoming band from San Jose. There is also a song from Sonambulo, another new band I really like from the country’s capitol. Their song “El Baile de Zopilote” is a wonderful example of their brand of music they have coined as “psychotropical”. I also like hearing from Ska Cubano on this compilation, an infectious duo, with their rendition of “Cumbia de Monte”. And to include the Caribbean cultures, Steph has included the Calypso Limon Legend’s live version of the playful song “Rum” and a version of “Carolyne” from calypso legend Walter Ferguson from Cahuita.

I particularly enjoyed “El Huellon de la Carreta” by Guanacaste’s own legend, Max Goldenberg. I was also pleased to see pianist Manuel Obregon offer “Jungu-Jungu” to the collection. The Garifuna sound of Umalali is also represented with “Merva” and Orquestra de la Papaya is included with “Bullerengue”. It is truly a wonderful compilation of Costa Rican sound and culture.

The project is being distributed throughout the country by Ediciones Ojala, a publishing company based in San Jose that has accrued a very credible reputation with their own wonderful books over the past decade, including “Costa Rica: Fronteras Naturales” a bilingual publication dedicated to the national parks of Costa Rica.