San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Espinoza’s Lyrics Draw Attention


Espinoza’s songs have wriggled into that Twilight Zone of music where the roles of lyrics and instruments are reversed. In the world of modern music, where instruments compensate for what the lyrics lack in meaning, his songs are musical vehicles, almost sidebars, for his lyrical message.

The effect is exaggerated in the Costa Rican’s solo album, “Apuntes Vitales” (Vital Notes), which predominantly showcases just his voice, guitar and thoughtful poetry.

With those tools he has bored shafts all over the landscape of topics that harmonize with the acoustic guitar, mining themes of the natural world and the city, of birth, fear, rain and others and even those that do not belong to him – the struggle of the indigenous Maleku.

THE plight of the Maleku was the impetus for “Espiritus de Tonjibe” (Spirits of  Tonjibe), named for a Maleku village, San Rafael de Guatuso in the Northern Zone. Men in grass loincloths dart along wooded paths in the video that accompanies that song, also included in his CD.

The song is overlaid with the voice of Marvin Elizondo uttering mysterious phrases in bass tones, and it laments the loss of that culture’s traditions to the indifference of the young generation.

As an example, one of the verses is a testament as vivid as any of his lyrics to Espinoza’s transcendence of the dullness that mires the messages of other artists.

Spirits of Tonjibe

Forged of copper and mud

With fermented corn

With the machete and grain Legends of heroes and gods

By your paths of stone

Your memory will hopefully return

Spirits of the earth.

Mauricio González produced the video through his company Afta Films and is also filming a documentary of those from Tonjibe. Though Maleku land has been protected since 1974, he said, estate owners on the borders of their reservation have scooted their property lines into the reserve and have cut large chunks of the primary forest.

Now the Maleku are looking to ecotourism to ease their transition from dependence on their dwindling trees. For the last year they have performed rituals and dances for visitors and shared with them their way of life. Afta and the video decry the loss of those traditions and hope to publicize the predicament of the communities there.

THOUGH the company has not yet made a profit from the video, González said “we want to share the proceeds from the sale of the video with the people there, so future generations of Maleku and others can know of their traditions.”

Wilson Monera, a Maleku, has taken charge of the eco-tourism project and can be reached at 464-0443.

The hype from the video, however, should not eclipse the clout of the album’s other songs. The majority are the reflections of a man with his guitar, but he slips in a few harmonica riffs and, through the miracle of track mixing, he accompanies himself on the congas.

In concert the harmonica stand around his neck lends the impression of a Latin version of Bob Dylan. Mauricio Vargas bongs out his own invented rhythms on the congas and others that underlie the Latin-flavored music of the isthmus.

ESPINOZA says of his music: “they are songs from the soul, from experience, from someone expressing himself out of necessity.”

Espinoza will play at the Jazz Café in San Pedro on March 30. His disc is on sale online at It and his first album “Semillas de Hermanidad” (Seeds of Brotherhood) with the group Abraxas are available at Servicios Digitales in Alajuela. For more info, contact Espinoza at 443-1685, e-mail, or see

For info on the video or the upcoming documentary, contact Afta Films at 443-3443 or e-mail


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