What’s The Marimba? Get to Know about This traditional Rich

    An instrument that reflects the diversity of Latin American music

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    Guillermo Agudelo
    I was born in Colombia, I come from humble parents but with good habits and love for God. I had the great opportunity to grow up with a special aunt in my life, she took me to live in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. I grew up there, I studied at Lehi High and then I started studying at BYU. In the year 2000 I returned to my land and obtained the title of Bachelor in Education Mension integral

    The “Marimba” is known as the piano of America. This historic and popular musical instrument is an emblem that represents the spirit of the Costa Rican, as people that love peace and democracy.

    The amount of electronic instruments that invade the dance sites and are heard massively in the different media is increasing, the marimba has been gradually displaced, even in danger of disappearing, hence the interest to declare it a national musical instrument, which occurred in the government of José María Figueres Losen, on September 3, 1996, by decree No. 25114-C published in La Gaceta No. 167, where the Marimba is declared as the national musical instrument, and considered a symbol of culture and tradition.

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    The marimba is an element and participant of many social events of a popular and religious festive nature; in our country it has had as its primary function to represent musically the cheerful spirit of the Costa Rican people, and the reflection of history through its traditional repertoire. It is the province of Guanacaste where it can be identified as a representative instrument of folklore, given that in this area the active execution, rescue, projection and construction of it remain;

    It also has an important influence in Santa Cruz and its nearby towns, as in Nicoya, that is to say that these two cantons of the province of Guanacaste are the pillars of the marimba since they were the first places where their participation in different fields was presented as much as religious and social-popular, in addition in the canton of Liberia there are also Marimbite manifestations, in the civic and patron celebrations you can find a marimba in each corner; It represents the joy of the people.

    It should be noted that this is also used in the Central Valley and some sectors of Puntarenas, but not as predominantly as in the northern part of the country, most of them were Guanacastecos who left for San José and Puntarenas in search of job opportunities, and they decided to follow up on the marimba musical tradition.

    Origin of the Marimba. Costa Rican Origin.

    La Marimba hoy. National Symbol of Costa Rica

    The origin and musical development of the Costa Rican marimba have been investigated by musicians, researchers, and professors of our country, mainly for the interest of keeping alive the musical tradition and preservation of this instrument as an essential part of our national identity.

    Although there have been certain publications of books and articles about the origin of the marimba in Central America, it is affirmed that it arrived through black African Bantu slaves, but others affirm that it is native and that it arrived in our country with the Franciscan Missionaries. The marimba, therefore, has in its roots a clear fusion of cultures, miscegenation is part of the product that was formed in the encounter of three cultures that populated America, Indians, blacks, and whites;

    That is why in the marimba many roots can be detected when referring to its origin. The African heritage is present within the musical construction of our culture, elements such as, spirit, polymetric and more components that are an undeniable contribution to Latin American identity.

    The closest representation of the marimba and its relationship with that content can be based on the way to group the keys in succession and strike them to emit their sounds. This continent also contributed to the word marimba, of Bantu (African language) origin. From Europe, the tempered musical system was provided with the twelve-tone scale.

    When it is mentioned about the geographical location of this instrument in our continent, it follows that its greatest cultural development is mainly in Mesoamerica, in this case from Chiapas to southern Mexico, through Guatemala and Nicaragua, to Guanacaste and the central valley of Costa Rica. In the same way, it is found in some southern countries such as Colombia, Ecuador, and Brazil, this means that the interculturality of the marimba expands over almost the entire continent.

    The shape of the Costa Rican marimba has undergone certain aesthetic changes, since you can find marimbas that are diatonic with a single keyboard and also two keyboards; Currently they come in all sizes, from the small marimba called tenor that can be performed by two or three, or the marimba squad that is the unification of a large marimba where approximately 7 musicians are performing it.

    The marimba is mentioned in a text that appears on the album “The magic of Chiapas” stating that in 1896 in Chiapas, Mexico, Don Corazon de Jesús Bonilla was the one who created the double keyboard marimba, with any kind of music being able to be played with it, and in Guatemala this transformation took place in 1900 by Professor Lucas Paniagua.

    Among the Costa Rican composers who have dedicated their lives to musical creation, and enriching the repertoire for marimba music, there is the maestro Alpino Duarte (1929-2015) who gave his life to the Costa Rican marimba, completely standing out in the teaching, performance and composition of traditional music that today remain within the traditional repertoire.
    Also, some composers have done works for the Creole marimba as is Benjamín Gutiérrez with the concert for the Creole marimba on Alpino Duarte themes, and others who have created compositions for marimbas concerts such as Mario Alfagüell, Alejandro Cardona and Luis Diego Herra. It is important to continue creating more repertoires for the Creole marimba by current composers; this would help a lot to the musical development of the instrument.

    National Day of the Costa Rican Marimba.

    The Legislative Assembly approved the declaration of November 30 as National Day of the Costa Rican Marimba. The Law intends that on November 30 of each year a series of cultural activities be celebrated in our country, such as festivals, competitions, folk dances, workshops for teaching and performing music produced by marimba, among others, in such a way that the importance of marimba in Costa Rica’s culture and folklore be popularized and extended its practice.

    The use of the marimba in Costa Rica has taken a predominant place with respect to cultural activities at the national level, the creation of a National Marimba Festival to vindicate the use and dissemination of marimba as a national symbol was first performed at the Salazar Mélico Popular Theater on July 24, 1996; A monument in honor of the marimba, the marimbas and marimbas were built in the canton of Santa Cruz on August 29, 2003.

    In Costa Rica there are music projects that focus on the rescue and incorporation of traditional rhythms and instruments, in this case, we can mention a group which has been very important for the development of the new national song for our country, it is the case of “Grupo Mal País”, who oscillate between Costa Rican or more broadly Central American folklore, mixing traditional rhythms with ballad rock, jazz fusion, as well as incorporating marimba into their instrumentation. Another group which is very important for the rescue of Costa Rican music is “Los de la Bajura” who also includes a marimba in their instrumentation and their songs.

    It is necessary to reinforce and recognize the musical tradition of the marimba, with a focus on cultural and educational fields for enjoyment and permanence within the new generations, it is for this reason that the government of the Republic declares July 25 as “Day of the Marimba Cultural Heritage of the Nation “signed by President Luis Guillermo Solís and the Minister of Culture and Youth Sylvia Durán during the solemn session of the municipal council within the framework of the 191 anniversary of the incorporation of the Nicoya Party to Costa Rica.


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