The Sound of Latin America
By Timothy Vivian-Shaw
Central America is an area alive with rich and intoxicating sounds. The music of Latin America is as vibrant and diverse as the continent itself, from rare birdsong, to sultry samba beats. With this in mind, here are our top recommendations on what to listen out for on your journey!
Cloud Forest Chorus
Wandering through the labyrinth like undergrowth of a rainforest, dense fog hangs heavy in the air. Visibility will not extend far in front of you, but taking a moment to stop and train your ear, a beautiful chorus becomes clear. A gentle rush of wind through the canopy sets the rhythm, the soft buzz and hum of insects provide bass notes, and serene whistles and whoops of birdsong act as melody. There is, perhaps, no better music in the natural world than the symphony of the Central American rainforest.
Over a quarter of Costa Rica’s land is marked as biological reserves, wildlife shelters and national parks, making the country one of the best in the world for those wishing to observe wildlife. The finest of these wildlife hotspots are undoubtedly the cloud forests that line towering mountains and volcanoes along the length of the country. The thick cloud shrouds the trees and vegetation in a ghostly veil, leaving many of the forest’s inhabitants hidden from view. This adds a real sense of mystery and discovery when wandering the verdant and snaking paths.
For those with a sense of adventure and discovery, the Monteverde Cloud Forest is the perfect destination. Found in the north west of Costa Rica, Monteverde is home to a staggering amount of flora and fauna. Visitors are guaranteed to see many of the 425 species of bird as well as innumerable plants, insects and mammals.
Monteverde’s greatest treasure is famed as much for its elusiveness as its beauty, the Resplendent Quetzal. Coloured a bright azure and deep crimson, sightings of this bird are often fleeting. However, you are far more likely is hear its call; a short and soft whoop which carries through the misty air.
Antigua’s Musical Heritage
It is common, whilst enjoying a cocktail at one of many bars and restaurants across Guatemala, to be accompanied by a live band. Amongst the sound of biting snare drums and warm jazz chords, is the soft and rolling notes of Guatemala’s national instrument, the Marimba.
The first ever documented evidence of the marimba comes from an account in 1680. The account details the instrument being performed on the steps of the Cathedral de Santiago in Antigua. The cathedral fell victim to a large earthquake a century later and was never properly rebuilt. Today, the cathedral remains an eerily beautiful ruin and window into the rich history of Antigua. While the building has crumbled with the passing of time, Guatemala's music scene has grown and thrived upon its steps. Present day Antigua is alive with the sounds of both modern and indigenous music.
The Parque Central that sits in front of the Cathedral de Santiago often has local musicians and street performers entertaining tourists into the early hours. As the evening progresses, Antigua’s restaurants and bars come alive with the sound of traditional percussion and woodwind bands. Hidden down a quiet street on the eastern limits of the city is a music hotspot called Café No Sé. This small and intimate bar is host to live music from local artists 7 days a week.
The Beaches of Nicaragua
There are many times that one might welcome the loud chorus of Costa Rican cloud forest or the upbeat sounds of Guatemala’s rich music scene. However, there are also times where Latin American visitors seeks the opposite; peace and quiet. A place away from the loud and the bustling where relaxation is the ultimate goal. What better place to find quiet sanctuary than upon the soft white sands of a Caribbean island? The whisper of a light breeze through palm leaves and the ebb and flow of gentle waves lapping against the shore are the perfect sounds to unwind to. When searching for the best island getaway, Latin America’s weary traveller need look no further than the coast of Nicaragua.
One of the finest group of islands are the Pearl Keys, a collection of 12 islands nestled in the Caribbean Sea, 30km from the Pearl Lagoon. The islands are varying in size, with the larger ones containing lagoons, secluded palm groves and small settlements of indigenous Creole and Miskito people. The smaller islands have nothing but the bare essentials, the perfect place to escape the noise of modernity.
If travelling between May and November, you may find yourself sharing the more secluded beaches with the beautiful and endangered Hawksbill turtles. In recent years there has been huge investment in wildlife conservation, meaning that turtle numbers are on the rise. This makes the Pearl Keys a wildlife hotspot, as well as the perfect island getaway.
Make it Happen
Fancy losing yourself in the rich and intoxicating Music of Latin America for yourself? Why not submit an enquiry with our local experts in Costa Rica or Guatemala for the journey of a lifetime? Head to our destination pages for more information!