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Unique Rock Bands Find Inspiration in Costa Rica

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Gogol Bordello live in Athens. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Gogol Bordello live in Athens. Source: Wikimedia Commons

What do a gypsy punk band from New York and an eclectic Texas ensemble that mixes ska with Indian tones and a splash of psychedelia have in common? Both may have been inspired by their experiences in Costa Rica.

First up we have Gogol Bordello, a band that played in the eclectic and epic Festival Imperial 2012. Their latest album, Pura Vida Conspiracy, may have been influenced by the energetic set they played at the grounds of La Guacima racetrack in Alajuela, which are now owned by Grupo Nacion. Many Ticos were introduced to this exciting band thanks to the Festival Imperial, and they were not disappointed since Gogol Bordello never disappoints when they take the stage.

Two of our lucky readers got their hands on a pair of free tickets to Festival Imperial courtesy of the Costa Rica Star and got to see Gogol Bordello, Bjork, Moby, Mala Rodriguez, the Flaming Lips, TV on the Radio, and other musical artists.

The title of Gogol Bordello’s new album could be a reference to Costa Rica’s most iconic idiom, which is representative of the way of life here, or it could be an allusion to the name of the Zumba fitness studio where a prostitution scandal unfolded in Kennebunk, Maine earlier this year. According to news reports and court records, Alexis Wright, a sexy 29-year old Zumba instructor, used her Pura Vida Studio as a bordello of her own. It is not clear whether Wright had any connection to Costa Rica.

Regardless of the reason behind Gogol Bordello’s naming their sixth album Pura Vida Conspiracy, their new songs rock as usual -and they feature a clear Latin infusion, which is not new for a band that often injects Spanish lyrics in their songs. You can grab the new single “Malandrino” -which loosely translates to scoundrel in Spanish, on the band’s website.


The music played by this Texas band defies description. It is described by the San Marcos Mercury, their hometown newspaper as:

“funky, indie rock, punky ska this does an injustice to the subtle counterpoints that run through their music. Eastern European and Indian tones meld into the tunes so seamlessly that it seems more like bursts of pure joy rather than notes are mixed into the music. Little wisps of psychedelia float through the tunes, waving at polka beats as they vanish. The band bends each genre of music they sound like into new melodic vistas with more textures and depths. It’s familiar but somehow so much better — more enthusiastic, more interesting, more, well, Kabomba!”

Some of the members of Kabomba! met in a philosophy classrom at Texas State University, and one of them met the band’s original drummer during a trip to Costa Rica. Upon returning to Texas, the rest of the members joined and the band was thus formed.

Kabomba’s bass player Neal Denton attempted to explain the band’s unique sound:

Matt, Bryce, and I all bring songs or structures for songs to the group. You can hear the difference of influences in our sound. Matt is more into the indie rock/singer-songwriter sort of stuff. Bryce is all about bouncy, gypsy-polka-esque sort of stuff, and I’m more into the funky/groovy rock sort of stuff.

You can come to your own conclusions about Kabomba! by visiting their profile on Reverb Nation and listening for yourself. The Costa Rica Star recommends that you start with Bartalk en Juarez and go from there. Interestingly enough, the members of Kabomba! cite Gogol Bordello as an influence.

Perhaps one day Kabomba! will play live in Costa Rica, maybe opening for the return of Gogol Bordello. Quite a few cool bands make their way down here, sometimes in virtual secrecy -just to test the musical waters, but some love coming to Costa Rica for more than just a gig: They like to experience the country. To this effect, you can read about the amazing visit of Sublime to Costa Rica before the sad passing of lead singer Brad Nowell, as well as Duff McKagan’s (from Guns N’ Roses) visit and performance at the Luxe Lounge in Escazu.

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