Singing to Nicaragua from Exile

Nicaraguan artists resume their careers in Costa Rica

Andres Somarriba

Repression forced them to leave Nicaragua. In the neighboring country they organize concerts and have created new musical bands.

By Alejandra Padilla (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – Since April 2022, there was a new wave of Nicaraguan artists forced to leave the country, after the National Police on April 12 arbitrarily detained Josue Monroy, vocalist of the Nicaraguan band Monroy and Surmenage; and the managers of Saxo producciones, Xochilt Tapia and Salvador Espinoza, music producers who later were sent into forced exile, despite being Nicaraguans.

Andres Somarriba played some of his music in one of the most emblematic avenues of the Costa Rican capital. Photo: Alejandra Padilla.

Andres Somarriba was vocalist and guitarist of a reggae and rock Nicaraguan band, The Camels, a group that wrote songs alluding to the April 2018 civic rebellion in Nicaragua, such as “Arrullo de Libertad” (a lullaby for freedom) and “Lejos de Vos” (Far from you).

Due to the closure of spaces for artists critical of the Nicaraguan government, he decided to go into exile in Costa Rica, on May 7th of this year. “The spaces for independent artists in Nicaragua were dwindling. For a few months I had made my way playing on buses and in the street, with the desire to express myself,” Somarriba says.

The fear of being arrested, after the arbitrary detention of musicians and producers in the country in April, accelerated his decision to emigrate. “A true artist no longer has opportunities in Nicaragua, which is a country increasingly in decline in terms of human rights and freedom of expression,” adds the 31-year-old musician.

Tania organized her first concert in Costa Rica last July 15 in San Jose. Photo: Courtesy.

The political persecution against dissident voices also affected musicians who deal with other social issues in their compositions. Tania Molina is a feminist singer-songwriter who began her musical career in 2017, whose lyrics address the defense of women’s rights. “Voces fieras,” is one of her most popular songs, which denounces sexual violence against women in Nicaragua.

“My music has always been of protest, but not specifically against a dictatorship,” Molina says. However, Molina decided to leave Nicaragua for Costa Rica in early July, when she was threatened with imprisonment for activism through her art.

Other Nicaraguan artists have been prevented by the government from entering Nicaragua. Last April, the regime also prevented the return to his country to musician Carlos Luis Mejía, member of the band La Cuneta Son Machin, who was returning to Nicaragua after a family trip.

“I am banned. My name is on a list and if I pass through any Nicaraguan immigration point, I will be arrested,” said another exiled musician who asked that his name be omitted.

New horizons

Despite the difficulties of exile, the artists have found in Costa Rica the opportunity to resume their musical careers.

“I had practically a year of not playing with my band. Now I have played more here in Costa Rica in one month, than what I played in two years in Nicaragua,” explained Andres, now a member of “Free Tanga,” a band assembled during his exile, jointly with other Nicaraguan musicians.

Jimmy Guevara, a music producer residing in Costa Rica since 2018, stresses that “It is being accomplished to make a reality their gradual positioning in Costa Rican society, bands who were known in Nicaragua, such as Garcin and The Camels.”

Additionally, new spaces have emerged from where Nicaraguan exiled artists in Costa Rica can continue to promote national art collectively. “I think there has been, since 2018, among artists, a lot of support to not let Nicaraguan music fall. Sometimes crisis somehow help to reunite us,” Molina emphasizes.

Exile has also allowed to explore other horizons in art. “I truly feel the responsibility as an artist to denounce and continue the popular cry for justice and democracy. It is something from which I will not detach myself, but I do believe that I can do other projects such as sing to love, to life,” says Somarriba.

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