Bernal Monestel says there’s commercial music everywhere you look. It’s blaring from the radios, danced to at all the venues, worn on T-shirts and seen on posters across the world. It fills every nook and cranny of the public attention span, making it hard for most alternative music to ever see the light of day.
So ever since 1980, when Monestel got his start in radio, he has been out to promote underground music in Costa Rica, and in 1995 created his own production company, Mundoloco Producciones, to do even more. Along with music acts ranging in style from jazz-rock fusion to Celtic-Tico rhythmic integration, he has even promoted ballerinas and fire jugglers.With 12 years of producing under his belt,Monestel, 49, is still working to get young and unknown Costa Rican talent all the exposure the public will afford them.
The first problem he said he faced: no venue was interested in underground acts. They wanted cover bands. They wanted music that was already popular. They wanted Shakira.
In 1999, Mundoloco En Vivo began as an outlet for his bands to perform in front of live audiences at La Cajeta restaurant in Cartago, east of San José.
Then, six years ago this month, Mundoloco En Vivo was offered a temporary, twomonth spot Monday nights at Jazz Café, in the eastern San José suburb of San Pedro.
Thanks to much publicity and a loyal fan base, Monestel says, today music fans can still see some of the best rising acts in Costa Rica play at the country’s best venue for live music, every Monday night and one Saturday a month.
One Mundoloco band, Celtic-music group Peregrino Gris (Gray Pilgrim), traveled to Ireland and Scotland in 2003 to perform at several small venues. Though the money and the fame of commercial acts may be taking their time finding the diverse performers of Mundoloco, that’s not their biggest priority, according to Monestel.
“We do it because we like it,” he says.
Monestel has seen his organization grow from eight groups to more than 20, and has put out several compilation CDs. A new part of Mundoloco Producciones, called Mundoloco Revelaciones, focuses specifically on promoting the new bands joining Monestel’s alternative fold.Mundoloco also has its own radio show, “Domuncolo,” airing on 91.1 FM Monday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m., offering listeners a mix of tribal music, electric jazz, groove and other styles from across the globe.
This past March, the third annual Mundoloco Festival in Jaulares de Alajuela, northwest of San José, saw more than 3,000 people come out to enjoy 12 hours of world music. Several videos from the festival can be found on YouTube.com by searching for “Festival Mundoloco.”
The event was no ragtag production, either,Monestel says. It featured a large, covered stage and professional lighting of the same caliber music fans would get at a “mainstream”music concert, he says, thanks to equipment provided by Dart (www.dartt.net), a company specializing in art, design and technology for entertainment projects.
The next Mundoloco performance at Jazz Café is set for June 18 at 10 p.m. Featured performers are Fabio Avelino with Batuque Congo and Medieval, playing a mix of Brazilian and Celtic music. The cover charge is ¢2,500 ($4.80) general admission and ¢2,000 ($3.90) for students. Call 253-8933 or visit www.jazzcafecostarica.com to make reservations or to learn more about Jazz Café.
The bands of Mundoloco Producciones can be booked for public events, house or office parties, or for any space a band can fit into to perform, Monestel says. For more information, call 394-4164 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. A Mundoloco Web site is under construction at www.mundolocoproducciones.com.