Jim ParisiMusic Review

Estampas de Abril y Mayo

abril y mayoBy Jim Parisi

Manuel Obregon is an incredible pianist and an incorrigible musicologist who has definitely found his calling in life and is now reveling in it. Even before he helped form the Central American music label Papaya Music, he showed signs of his calling when he became enamored by the music of Paraguayan guitarist Augustin Barrios Mangore’ and transcribed and interpreted the compositions to piano. Along with being a member of Malpais, arguably the most popular band in Costa Rica, playing original tunes in a new style I have dubbed “modern folkloric”, Obregon also commandeers the Orquesta de Papaya, a culmination of musicians and musical styles from all of Central America. His last recorded project, “Piano Malango” was a unique presentation of instrumental interpretations, meandering down the river of historic and famous Costa Rican, Nicaraguan and Panamanian songs.

Jaime Peligro Books and Music

For his latest album, Manuel Obregon has ventured down a new tributary of that river, along with singer Aurelia Trejos, a fellow music historian, who has recorded and performed in the past with famed guitarist Dionisio Cabal as well as the group Cantares. Aurelia is an accomplished and recognized actress as well, hosting two popular television and radio shows in Costa Rica, “Somos Como Somos” and “Aurelia, Cancion y Pueblo”. The new album, titled “Estampas de Abril y Mayo” is a compilation of songs from the past two centuries, unearthed by Aurelia over a thirty year span, a collection of “campesino songs”, traditional tunes from the working class, mostly agricultural from the Central Valley of Costa Rica. It was recorded in the Papaya studio in Alajuela last February as a live duet and that interplay is conveyed in the warmth and intimacy that comes across in the music. And yes, that means it is simply piano and voice, which Ms. Trejos delivers in a lower register, giving the songs a somber, sepia-tone effect.

The title track, “Estampas de Abril y Mayo” captures the theme of the entire album: the passage of summer to winter, when the rains begin along with a kind of rebirth of the cycle of life, something celebrated in agricultural zones throughout the world. This collection of thirteen songs also captures and preserves a part of Costa Rican culture that is rapidly fading and I perceive this as one of Papaya Music’s and Manuel Obregon’s goals. From the Caribbean, the Calypso Legends and Walter Ferguson albums, from Guanacaste, the Tierra Seca album, along with the aforementioned Piano Malango all attest to this, let alone the Ray Tico CD, whose title says it all: “Solo Para Recordar”.

The piano work on “Abril y Mayo” is playful and lilting, a delight to listen to. The interplay with Aurelia’s delivery is romantic in the true sense of the word. Whether the song is about hummingbirds, a typical meal, a rose, a river or an oxcart, this duo’s passion is at the forefront, distilling the sentiment of the song, to be enjoyed and appreciated by all its new listeners. As always, the packaging by Papaya is first-rate. The case is a double gatefold with a nice collection of Luciano Capelli photos and a booklet with lyrics and a description of each song.

Estampas de Abril y Mayo is available the Jaime Peligro bookstores in Playa Tamarindo, Quepos and Tilaran, where they will sample the music for their customers.