Artist Profiles: Orquesta de la Papaya

Since its creation in February 2002, the Orquesta de la Papaya (Papaya Orchestra) has become Central America’s most distinctive calling card.

Meeting for the first time and in many cases, making the first venture out of their communities, fourteen musicians from seven countries along with their instruments and their traditions were called to interpret music usually played at festivities, to accompany labor, for religious ceremonies and in everyday life.

This how the folk violin of Panama, the Garifuna drums of Belize and Honduras, Guatemala’s earthen jars (pre-Columbian percussion) and Nicaraguan marimbas de arco were brought together under the direction of Costa Rican pianist Manuel Obregón.

The musicians of Papaya are a true reflection of ethnic convergence in this zone, made up of indigenous ancestors, the Africans who came with the Europeans in the colony and all of the mixes that subsequently took place.

The Papaya Orchestra has conquered both Central Americans and demanding audiences at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (April 2003), the Festival International of Louisiana (May 2003) and the Forum of Barcelona 2004.

At the Festival Cervantino in Mexico (October 2003), the Orchestra powered up its stage presence with the inclusion of Yomira John, an Afro-Panamanian singer residing in France who has opened the way for incorporating Central America’s female voices.

The orchestra was originally comprised of Lenín Fernández from Guatemala; Oscar “El Chele” Menjívar from El Salvador; “Breeda” David Obi y Mohobub Flores from Belize; Ramón Eduardo “Guayo” Cedeño y Juan Astor Norales Dolmo from Honduras; Marcos Martínez, Domingo Martínez y Yader Martínez from Nicaragua; Raúl Vital, Miguel Angel Leguisamo, Ormelis Cortez and Antonio de la Cruz from Panama and Manuel Obregón from Costa Rica.


Manuel Obregón y la Orquesta de la Papaya (2002)
Tierra de la dulce espera (2005)

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.


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