Fiddlin' AroundNancy Buchan


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

Scorching hot local guitarist, singer and songwriter Ben Orton wrote a song about the rain that I really love and which we often perform – an answer to those grumpy people who let the rain get them down.  It’s called “I Like Rain” and here are the lyrics for those who haven’t heard it…. 

“I don’t mind the sunshine or a perfect cloudless sky but I like rain!

The sun’s alright for a nature hike or to ride your bike, but it’s not quite the same.

Some folks like to head out to the beach and catch some rays out in the sand.

I wish it’d rain for 40 days and 40 nights – you may not understand…

I like rain, I love rain, I need rain – I can’t get enough.

Rain, I feel rain, I see rain, the world needs rain.

On the way here to the gig I stopped the car to look up in the sky.

When I hear thunder far away I calculate the distance by the time.

Now it’s raining cats and dogs just look outside – there’s nothing y’all can do.

So do a little rain dance ‘cause it looks like we’re all stuck inside here too.

If you’re afraid to get a little wet and you start to bum out for no reason –

Then why come here this time of year, wasn’t it clear this is the rainy season?

Listen to the sound as the rain begins to pound up on the roof.

Stay inside and take your time – you’re bound to find something here to do.” 

There are hundreds and hundreds of songs written about the rain, and this time of year in this place makes me pre-occupied bordering on obsessed with the subject.  Some of them, like the Cascades hit song “Rhythm of the Falling Rain” even have sounds of rainfall in the background.  That song has endured through all kinds of musical styles and trends, and it can still put me in a funky and reflective mood.  I didn’t realize it had been re-done by my old Colorado friend Dan Fogelberg until I started googling rain songs, and found him doing a lovely version of it.  Seems like everyone has had a rain song… Bob Dylan sings about a hard rain, the Grateful Dead said it looks like rain, James Taylor talks about fire and rain, Credence Clearwater Revival want to know who’ll stop the rain and Willie Nelson has blue eyes cryin’ in the rain.  And they’re not all gloomy songs – hard to hear ‘Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head’ without seeing Paul Newman careening around on a bicycle wearing that goofy smile… You too can exhaust yourself and your friends on the subject! 

There is a very cool percussion instrument called a rainstick.  Any hip percussionist, especially if they are Latino music-based, would play several different types.  Jazz cats play them, orchestras have them on hand, and you hear them all the time in ‘ambient’ new wavy kinds of recordings.  Four hundred years of use in South America has obscured it origin, but it was used by indigenous people in their storytelling and to invoke rain deities and spirits.  The Diaquita Indians of the deserts of northern Chile and Peru made them, as did the Huichol Indians of northern Mexico, the Cuna Indians of Panama, the Colorado Indians of Ecuador, and the indigenous peoples of northern Amazonia.  They were also used by people in West Africa, who probably learned about them through the slaves that passed through their land.  

Early rainsticks were created from dead, dried cactus.  They pushed the cactus spikes inward, then filled the cactus with pebbles or seeds or dried beans or whatever they had handy, so that when they moved it around the pebbles fell through the hollow cactus, cascading off of the spikes to make a rain sound.  Other people would get a long hollow tube, like a piece of bamboo, and push something hard and spikey through the wood to the inside, and cap both ends.  (If you are making your own rainstick, drill holes in the bamboo before putting in the spikes so it won’t crack.)  It can be shaken like a maraca, thumped on the ground, or turned upside down – and the sound can be changed by the amount and type of objects put inside.  Rainsticks can be quite beautiful pieces of art, as well as being rhythmic and soothing.  They were often embellished on the outside with symbols of their rain gods, weather, crops or their tribe.  Some dried gourds can be made into similar sounding instruments.  They are pretty simple to make, so if you are trapped inside ‘cause of the rain, making a rainstick could be a good rainy day project! 

Don’t let a little wet stuff keep you from getting out and enjoying live music!   Under shameless self-promotion – Ben Orton and I play pretty regularly at Roca Verde in Dominical on Friday nights, so paddle on south and check us out!  If you are a musician, put some of those moisture absorbing packet thingees in your instrument case, open up and check your microphones and pedals for gecko eggs, keep your strings in good ziplock bags and bring along an umbrella, cause it always rains when you are unloading or loading equipment! 

“You say you love rain, but you use an umbrella to walk under it.

You say you love sun, but you seek shade when it is shining.

You say you love wind, but when it comes you close your window.

So that’s why I’m scared when you say you love me!”                                         – Bob Marley


“Don’t threaten me with love, baby.  Let’s just go walking in the rain.”           – Billie Holiday


“Some people walk in the rain and others just get wet.”                                      – Roger Miller

One thought on “Rain

  • “I love a rainy night”
    Eddie Rabbit
    Love your stuff, NJB

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