Region, Culture, music

The sound of guitars will fill four cantons in Guanacaste for the sixth time (and now it’s free!)

Esta publicación también está disponible en: Español
Translator: Arianna Hernandez

In 2010, professor and musician Kenneth Porras, from Cañas, gave rise to an idea that continues to pulsate today in the province: the Guanacaste Guitar Festival. Just one year later, in 2011, the festival came to life in the canton of Cañas, marking the beginning of a generous musical tradition.

Thirteen years after its inception, the festival’s legacy continues.

The communities of Liberia, Cañas, Abangares and Tilarán are now preparing for the sixth edition of the Guitar Festival, which will take place from Friday, October 20 to Sunday, October 22.

For Porras, this event reflects not only his passion for music but also a commitment to enriching the region musically and culturally.

The Guitar and its Impact on Guanacaste’s Music

In addition to the marimba and the quijongo, the Spanish (or classical) guitar has constantly accompanied the arrangements of the region’s folk music. A quick visit to YouTube is enough to confirm that.

A version of the iconic song “Amor de Temporada” (Seasonal Love) is available on that platform, performed by Liberian composer Héctor Zuñiga Rovira, a song that Zúñiga composed in 1930, when he was only 17 years old.

Its unmistakable melody and lyrics make the song easy to recognize. In this version, there is a musical instrument that accompanies Zúñiga’s voice and sets the rhythm of the song: the guitar.

The same can be said of other iconic compositions from Guanacaste, such as “Luna Liberiana” (Liberian Moon) by Jesús Bonilla Chavarría or “Pasión” (Passion) by Roberto Arce and Pasión Acevedo. All of them are distinguished by the resonance of the strings and the guitar body.

It’s clear: over the years, this instrument has left a deep mark on the region’s musical identity, accompanying iconic songs and establishing an unbreakable emotional bond with the soul of Guanacaste.

The Festival as a Cultural Point 

According to Porras, the festival’s development arose from a concern.

In the 2010s, the province of Guanacaste found itself in a context in which folk music and traditional festivities were the main cultural manifestations. Despite this rich tradition, the guitar as an instrument didn’t have a prominent place in the local cultural panorama,” he related.

Porras wanted to address this concern in a practical way: show people the multiple technical possibilities that the guitar has to offer and in that way, open new cultural perspectives for Guanacastecans.

That’s why, in each of the festival’s five previous editions, the organizers have decided to pay tribute to Costa Rican musicians who played a fundamental role in advancing and spreading the guitar in the country.

Among the notable people who have been paid tribute are Ulpiano Duarte, a marimba player from Santa Cruz; Luiz Zumbado, the founder of the Costa Rican Guitar Association; and Ramonet Rodríguez, who pioneered flamenco guitar music in Costa Rica, among others.

This year, the person who will be paid tribute will be Elvis Porras, a Costa Rican guitarist and composer who was part of the Madrid Guitar Orchestra and winner of the First Spanish Classical Guitar Competition in Costa Rica.

In each prior year of the festival, musicians of national and international renown have performed in Guanacaste. And this year is no exception.Photo: The Guanacaste Guitar Festival

Renowned Musicians and Learning Opportunities

Each edition of the festival has attracted renowned musicians to the province, both national and international.

The guests are concert performers who have impressive resumes, they have had the good fortune of playing on the most prestigious stages in the world, Europe, Asia, America and, well, Guanacaste is no exception.”

For this sixth edition, Porras highlights the participation of Daniel Bolshoy, an Israeli-Canadian guitarist who has performed as a soloist in more than 60 orchestras internationally, including the Mexico City Philharmonic, the Volgograd Symphony (Russia), and the symphony orchestras of Vancouver, Toronto and Nova Scotia.

National artists who will be participating in the festival include Felipe Solis, the duo Solerti & Saborío and Ramonet Rodríguez, among others.

Expanding to Four Cantons

For the first time, the festival will take place simultaneously in four cantons in Guanacaste, and each one of the concerts will be free for people to attend.

Porras explained that this decision was made with the purpose of ensuring that the cultural impact reaches a broader audience.

“Over the years, the festival has been positioning itself. Very important artists have come here to Guanacaste and that speaks very well of the festival. So for this year, fortunately we have much more support. It’s no longer just me. We have people organized in Cañas, Liberia, Abangares and in Tilarán,” he specified.

Also, for the first time, the festival is receiving support from municipal governments such as Cañas and Tilarán.

The festival director celebrates this milestone. The first festival had very little support and not much of a budget, he added.

I’m personally very happy with the reception the festival has had this year, mainly due to the support in the municipalities, which are sometimes a little closed and difficult, but this year, they have been open to being able to take it to their communities and treat people to performances”.

Pablo Romerro, a guitarist from Liberia, made history by winning the National Guitar Competition in the youth category on October 13, 2023, becoming the first Guanacastecan to do so.Photo: The Guanacaste Guitar Festival

Another Milestone for the Guitar in Guanacaste 

This year, Guanacaste is witnessing another historic milestone: someone from Guanacaste has succeeded in winning the National Guitar Competition in the youth category for the first time in the province’s history.

Pablo Romero, a guitarist from Liberia who is currently in ninth grade, began studying guitar under the direction of the festival director last year.

Just one year later, Romero made his debut in the Costa Rican National Guitar Competition in the youth category and stood out by obtaining two significant awards: first place in the youth category and a prize for the best performance of a required work. 

A desire to become a music professional opened the doors for him to enter the pre-university system of the University of Costa Rica, where he will continue his musical training process,” Porras indicated.

To Porras, events like the guitar festival are essential for the professional growth of musicians in the region.

“They are concerts in which one gets to learn, in which one has the opportunity to get up to date, to talk about certain topics and have that vision of the world that these artists bring,” he added.

Future Vision

“I believe my vision for the future of the Guitar Festival began during this edition. I have always wanted the festival to be a cultural circuit that involves many towns in Guanacaste and also has an impact on the local economy and tourism,” explained the musician from Cañas.

According to Porras, they have already established strategic alliances with other people involved in the guitar movement in Costa Rica and they hope that the festival will continue to grow in coming years.

If you want to know more about the festival’s schedule, visit the festival’s Facebook page or you can also text your questions to 8852-9672.