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88Nine Radio Milwaukee

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Afro-Nicaragua! entering Dimension Costeña

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In order to talk about the Afro-Nicaraguan band I played at 11am this morning, Dimension Costeña, I should prolly spend a moment to tell you about Palo de Mayo. Palo de Mayo is a month-long May Day, Maypole type of celebration practiced up and down Central America's Caribbean coast. From Nicaragua to Panama, Palo de Mayo celebrations are a part of the cultural fabric and function much like other Maypole celebrations around the world; welcoming rain, production, new life and including a maypole, which is a tall wooden pole, decorated with several long, colored ribbons suspended from the top. The Central American version of the tradition originated in Bluefields, Nicaragua and was likely brought by the English.

The English version is decidedly prim however and in Nicaragua it was modified by the African population, incorporating elements of Shango, a West African religion, featuring spirit possession. The dance that traditionally was proper was also Africanized, featuring a more sunsual dance that continues to evolve with the sexuality of the times. And for dancing, there's music and many bands specialize in music made for the occasion; Dimension Costeña is one such band.

Dimension Costeña is a band that was pretty big in the 80's and the song I played, "Bluefields Express" is perhaps an homage to the birthplace of Palo de Mayo celebrations; it's also the title of the LP I scored the cut from. Either way, it's an intesting tune in its own right and carries a festive Caribbean flavor, like so mainland cousin of calypso.