San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

World-Traveling Guitarist Makes Home in Nosara

“Ididn’t really want to be a rock star,” said Bill Macpherson, who will share a San José stage tonight with ’80s legend Andy Summers of The Police fame. “I wanted to be a really good guitar player.”

During this week’s International Guitar Festival, Macpherson will get to be around some of the best, particularly in the fields of flamenco and classical music (TT, Sept. 22).

“Maybe in five years I’ll be a semi-decent flamenco or classical guitarist,” he said in this, his 18th year as a guitar instructor. “Or maybe 10 years.”

He came of age to the music of The Grateful Dead, Hendrix, Crosby, Stills and Nash and Zeppelin – but also the likes of John Coltrane, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. Further back, African drums sounded through his childhood in Congo, as did the electric “Congo jazz” of Kinshasa. Later, he happily discovered the jazz fusion of the Pat Metheny Group and Weather Report.

Tonight,Macpherson will plug in an electric guitar and unload his musical history at San José’s National Theater in the form of two African songs, a 12-bar blues and a tune by Jimi Hendrix.

A professional musician for 30 years, Macpherson, 48, was born in the United States but grew up in Congo, where his parents were medical missionaries. He now rents an apartment in Nosara, a beach town on Costa Rica’s northern Pacific coast, and another in Los Angeles. He lives with roommates and has a 22-year-old daughter in San Francisco. He just returned from Ghana, home of Nee Sackey, his bassist and musical partner in a 15-year-old band, Native Vibe.

The band has a revolving door of musicians from all over the world, Macpherson said. Native Vibe, whose “Luna de Nosara” disc came out last year, does most of its rehearsing onstage. Macpherson likes to travel and plays wherever he can. This “helps pay for some of my adventures,” he writes on his Web site,

The Web site projects upcoming tours of Brazil, Congo, Ghana, Cuba and Sierra Leone; Macpherson said he’ll take part in a big Costa Rican jazz festival next April and that he hoped to include Salif Keita, the famous singer from Mali, on his next record.

Costa Rica drew him six years ago, mostly for the surfing. The slower lifestyle hooked him, even though he often returns to the United States to teach and perform. Last year, Macpherson ran a surfing and guitar school in Nosara – “ride the boards and play the chords” – and he’s planning some guitar clinics there next year. If you don’t see him at the National Theater tonight, look for him on the beach.

Festival Lineup This Weekend

Sept. 29: 8 p.m., Ari Lotringer (Costa Rica), Bill Macpherson (United States), Andy Summers (England).

Sept. 30: 4 p.m., Juan Carlos López (Mexico), Judith de la Asunción with Edín Solis and Luis Zumbado (Costa Rica), Manuel Montero (Costa Rica); 8 p.m., David Coto (Costa Rica), Berta Rojas (Paraguay), Juan Falú (Argentina).

Oct. 1: 8 p.m., closing event with improvised songs from all performers, plus Dúo Zambra (Costa Rica) and the University of Costa Rica Guitar Orchestra directed by Luis Zumbado.

Tickets cost ¢6,500-15,500 and are available at the National Theater box office (221-5341).


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