The Limón Roots Afrocultural Jam was advertised as the biggest “cultural, artistic, and danceable” event in the history of Costa Rica.

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Limón Roots magazine hosted the festivities for the Black Cultural Festival which featured events around the country. Some of the events scheduled were the Jam, Gala Parade in Limón, Awards Ceremony and an African fashion show.

This was an extra big year for the Black Cultural Festival as it marked the 30th anniversary of the decree establishing the 31st August as as the “Día del Negro y la Cultura Afrocostarricense” in Costa Rica, and the 100th anniversary of the date Marcus Garvey first visited Costa Rica.

Marcus Garvey was a renowned journalist and black activist. He founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in Harlem, NY, in 1914 after having worked for the United Fruit Company in Limón. UNIA headquarters in Costa Rica are in Liberty Hall, founded in 1922 in Limón. The hall is also known as Black Star Line after the shipping line founded by Marcus Garvey.

The Jam took place in Peppers Club in Zapote. I was pleasantly surprised by the well lit parking lot, the ease of parking and the organized sale and collection of tickets.

The Club itself is large but nicely broken up into different seating areas and is well ventilated with a large dance floor and VIP balconies. Black, white and chrome with disco lighting added to the club atmosphere. The bars and kitchens were well staffed and provided rapid service.

We were enthusiastically greeted by Ramiro Crawford, editor of Limón Roots, handsomely dressed in traditional dashiki and fez with a charming smile and winning enthusiasm. He even did a little dancing for me and the camera!

I met people from Limón, San Jose, other parts of Costa Rica, the United States and Africa. Attendees were a lovely mix of ages and races sporting a wide variety of dress styles. All were united in a love of this special music and of dancing. There was dancing during performances but also during all breaks between performances to the salsa, cumbia, reggae and other disco music broadcasted.

People danced with others of all ages and races, and some enthusiastically danced “solo”. Watching the dancing was a favorite part of the evening for me. I was especially drawn to watching a rather elderly black man in a Panama hat and guayabera. He looked a bit slow moving when he rose from his chair, but on the dance floor he could salsa and Costa Rican swing like a pro!

‘Black Vibes’ opened the show. Three beautiful black women in shimmering tunics sang soul and funk from the 70’s and 80’s. I heard a lot of low volume singing-along and saw lots of hip swaying in the audience; a lovely introduction for the evening.

Now I have an confession to make because I do not know who performed next! The performer was dressed in hip-hop style with a knit rasta cap and dreadlocks.

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The performance appeared to be a combination of reggae and hip hop. At any rate, it was not traditional reggae, and I didn’t like it much. I love reggae but this performer was a little too hip-hop and rough for me. Such is a matter of personal taste, of course, but I am ashamed to admit I do not know who valiantly performed in front of the enthusiastic audience. I hope another reader will do this performer justice and I apologize.

After the break, the lights dimmed and the audience was mesmerized by haunting drum beat which increased in volume and rate until Kali Bamba Ndiaye, from Senegal, and his drummers and dancers descended from the stage as the lights came up. Dramatic indeed!

Dressed in African clothing and colors, the drummers and dancers performed with incredible energy and grace. The fusion of the different drums and the movements of the dancers were both beautiful and moving; their joy, energy and expertise unforgettable. I wouldn’t have believed that the music of nothing but different drums could be so lyrical and expressive. I absolutely loved this performance as did the entire audience.

Next up was one of my favorite Costa Rican groups, Marfil. Marfil was founded in the Atlantic port town of Puerto Limón. Limón, of course, is known for its Jamaican ancestry and reggae rhythms which had a direct influence on the sound of the band.

Their sound blends reggae, soca, soul, and jazz, with keyboards, guitar, brass, vocals and drums. I love this group, and their sounds had the dance floor packed. “Menéalo”!

Unfortunately, our little group had to leave at this point, while the party was in full swing. I am not certain if Sasha Campbell or if the salsa group Madera Nueva also performed as scheduled. I do love the internationally known sounds of Sasha Campbell which mix jazz, rhythm and blues, soul and hip hop.

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Grupo Madera Nueva is famous in Central American for their salsas. I’m sorry we couldn’t stay until the last wonderful note and I hope someone else will write about the remainder of the concert!

Costa Rica Video Marfil

This video is from a performance in 2007….

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Written by Jeanetta Owens who owns the lovely La Terraza B&B in Grecia which is about one hour from San José, Costa Rica. For a taste of living the good life in Grecia, Costa Rica, may we suggest you to book yourself into Jeanetta’s B&B for a nice long vacation.

Costa Rica B&B in Grecia with Jeanetta Owens

Jeanetta’s B&B has been rated the #1 B&B in Grecia, Costa Rica by Trip Advisor. You can find her blog here at La Terraza Blog

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