The culture of Costa Rica is greatly influenced by the Afros that came and inhabited the region in early times. The Afro-Costa Rican alliance is thus witnessed among its culture, art, festivity and most importantly, its music. Several festivals are celebrated all year long that pay tribute to this union of ethos that laid the foundation of Tico’s culture. Among them, is a festival that pays homage to the Afro-Costa Rican hero and the King of Calypso, Walter Ferguson.
The event is celebrated almost every year in places around Cahuita in true Costa Rican style. The merriment is all about happy people, merry music, joyful dance and delicious food. But most importantly this festival is to honor the legendary musician who encouraged and kept the calypso music evergreen in Costa Rica, Walter Ferguson. Known for his calypso songs like Cabin in the Wata and Callaloo, the festival celebrates his music and his work. Several local artists and musicians come to Cahuita from Limon and Puerto Viejo and yearn to become a part of the performances.
Born in the state of Panama, Walter was brought to Costa Rica early in his life. The family eventually settled in Cahuita and he lives here till this date. Walter had a sense of music from the very start. He quickly mastered the art of playing instruments like the guitar, harmonica and the clarinet all by himself. In 1950, he came up with his own band of Calypsonian mates and called it ‘Miserable’. Following that, in 1960s he started to pen down his own compositions and began competing and winning at all local Calypso challenges. Recognition found him as he started to group along with the bigger musicians of Panama and Limon like Lord Cobra, Papa Tun and Shanti.
At first, Walter recorded his music on cassettes and sold them straight to the tourists and locals. Every tape was a concert of its own and all fans held on to them like mementos. His music reflected the side of Costa Rican culture that was slowly overlooked by the community. He kept the calypso alive and soon was awarded many prizes for his endeavor. He has received honors like the Reca Mora Award, Popular Culture Award, The Ancora Prize and the ACAM Award. His music is an institute for ones who want to be influenced and many musicians like the Manual Monestel and the band Cantoamerica have looked up to him. Indeed, he is regarded as the King of Calypso.
The King gets visits from fans all around the world when they come to Costa Rica. The modest musician doesn’t have the slightest of pride. He meets them and thanks them all for their love. He strives to teach calypso to those who show talent and wants to immortalize this form of music in the time when he is no more. Almost hitting a century at age, the humble King lives on a pension in Cahuita. He roams the city unaided with the passion of Calypso within him still beating strong.