Costa Rica has a long and fervent tradition of Gospel music, which used to be confined to the churches. Occasionally, the choirs would leave their temples to join their voices in song in some borrowed theater of the city, returning home once again to display their talents. This disc brings together Costa Rican musicians influenced by jazz, the blues, soul and contemporary music, and the talents that raise their voices in worship every weekend in the protestant churches of capital city San Jose and Caribbean province, Limon.
Wade in the Water is a first approach to a repertoire that is sung today in Costa Rica’s churches. On the one hand, it reflects the strong influence of Afro-American Gospel in these latitudes, both in the choral groups and in the rhythms and styles of interpretation adopted in San Jose and the Central Valley where the protestant missionaries who arrived from the north predominated; meanwhile the connection with Jamaica and the Antilles is more evident in the congregations of Limon, where the songs retain a more Caribbean flavor.
The Gospel Caribe concert that gave rise to this disc was a true revelation for the public of Costa Rica. It will also be a revelation for those who listen to this recording that brings together more than thirty artists directed by the pianist Manuel Obregón and the male vocal sextet MasterKey.
This choir is made up of young Adventists, Anglicans and some Evangelists who would sing their hymns and songs of praise a capella. What was striking about this research is the confirmation that Gospel and Negro Spirituals have formed part of Costa Rica’s cultural identity for more than one hundred years, along with all the baggage brought by the Afro-Caribbean migration of the nineteenth century.
The other innovative aspect was that accomplished musicians such as Fidel Gamboa, Bernardo Quesada and Manuel Obregón himself, with very diverse careers and backgrounds -not real believers, but respectful of the artistic value and the emotive force that these songs acquire in the religious services -should turn their eyes to this phenomenon and incorporate their arrangements and opening up a very promising path in our national music.
As admirers of the vocal acrobatics of Kirk Franklin, of the all-male sextet Take Six and of Thomas Dorsey, the singers of MasterKey decided to include a couple of Franklin’s songs: Lean on Me and Blessing in the Storm. Others such as Amazing Grace and We Shall Overcome, (associated with the civil rights struggle of the 1970s), represent the bridge that links the Caribbean and Afro-American churches in their faith.
Wade in the Water submerges itself in the ocean of a devotion that gathers strength and develops its own personality in Caribbean Medley, an allegorical mixture of pieces that are popular in Jamaica, in which Salomon’s voice evokes a syncretism with the Rastafarian philosophy. This CD is the starting point of a deeper search by Papaya Music, which sets out to recover the songs that were intoned during the last century in the churches of Limon.