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HomeTopicsArts and CultureInterview with Costa Rican Guitar Legend Edin Solis of Editus

Interview with Costa Rican Guitar Legend Edin Solis of Editus

Edin Solis is one of the most respected classical guitarists and composers in Latin America. After winning Costa Rica’s National Guitar Contest in 1991 he continued his guitar education in Europe and that same year formed the legendary Costa Rican music group Editus.

Edin has been awarded two Grammy Awards for Best Producer and Engineer of the album Mundo with Ruben Blades in 2002 and 2003. He also received the Best Costa Rica Arranger award in 2000 and Best Composer of Classical Music award in 2007.

As a guitarist Soli­s has performed in many prestigious venues such as New York’s Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Olympia in Paris and at the Montreux Festival in Switzerland. He has performed with Ruben Blades, Armando Manzanero, Leon Gieco, Aterciopelados, Danilo Perez, Luis Fonsi, Jorge Strunz, Soraya and Luba Mason and many others. In this interview Edwin talks about his life and the development of Editus.

Please tell us something about your childhood in Costa Rica and where you went to school.

I spent my childhood and youth in Llano Bonito, a small town in the canton of Naranjo, Alajuela, 5 km from the city of Zarcero.

I was number 10 in a family of 11 siblings. I had the privilege of living a childhood surrounded by nature, coffee plantations, rivers, cows and family warmth. It was not until I was 14 years old that electricity came to my neighborhood so the lifestyle was quite simple and rural.

I attended elementary school in Llano Bonito and high school at the Alfaro Ruiz High School in Zarcero. My first contact with the arts was with painting (oil and watercolor) at the end of high school I began to explore the wonderful world of the guitar.

At what age did you know you wanted to be a professional musician and what was your inspiration?

In 1981 I intended to enter the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Costa Rica to study painting, but due to a failure in the process I had to wait a year. When I was 17 years old and listened to the classical guitarist Luis Zumbado, who years later would become my teacher, I knew I wanted to be a guitarist.

At that time I discovered great guitarists such as Andrés Segovia, Paco de Lucía, Manolo Sanlúcar, Baden Powel, Jorge Cardoso and others.

How did Editus originally form? 

At the Escuela de Artes Musicales at the University of Costa Rica I was taking Music Teaching and Guitar. I used to study long hours in the cafeteria and around that school and I met violinist Ricardo Ramirez. His musicality and talent caught my attention and I wanted to propose to him the idea of playing some classical and Latin American works in a recital. Officially the first concert was in 1990 in the Salón Dorado of Museo de Arte Costarricense.

After that we continued playing a wide range of musical genres and we wanted to give a name to the project. Finally at the suggestion of a philologist friend we decided to call it Éditus which means sublime or elevated in Latin.

What musical transformations and evolution has the band been through since it was formed?

With Éditus our life as musicians took a very interesting turn. It became a project that from the beginning had great acceptance. It became one of our main sources of income and at the same time represented an opportunity to approach and explore a wide range of musical genres that worked well with the guitar and violin.

From a duo we became a trio in 1994 with the incorporation of percussionist Carlos Vargas “Tapado” whom we knew from groups such as Cantoamerica, San Jose group and from there we set out to create our own works, invite young Costa Rican composers to write for the group and start a more active dynamic of concerts in public spaces and theaters.

What have been some high points of your music career and some low ones?

The high points in our career are many, the low points have been to build momentum.  I feel that for the three members of Éditus this project has been an artistic laboratory, a space to build, experiment, learn and grow.

As performers, producers, composers we had a space to come up with ideas that had a positive impact. We were able to produce many concerts, albums and started touring in and out of Costa Rica.

The highest point in our careers and that of several Costa Rican musicians and technicians was undoubtedly working alongside the Panamanian artist Ruben Blades. With him we were on big stages and the level of demand was very high. It was entering a professional league and what we shared with him marked us in a very positive way.

The lowest point, if it is possible to mention it, could be living in a very small environment. Costa Rica has an incipient music industry that makes it more difficult to sustain a project since the size of the public and the options for promotion are very limited. 

Please tell us about the Editus Arts Academy. Is it still active?

The Editus Academia de las Artes project was born with the idea of making a contribution to the Costa Rican musical community from a broad perspective of music. Breaking down borders between popular or academic music and seeing it as one.

The space came to house more than 400 students and became for a time a rich space for musicians to share experiences and knowledge.

After 11 years we had to close the project as it was not financially viable. The Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social (CCSS) forced us to ensure that all teachers gave one class or 20 a month.

The underwriting model was not suitable for that business model and unfortunately bankrupted us. We tried to save the academy by all means since education from our point of view is essential. That was the lowest point in our trajectory and it is for another one of the ones that left us the most teachings as entrepreneurs.

What are you doing personally music wise these days as well as with Editus?

I have further developed the composition of symphonic works and chamber music. We recently founded Editus Orquesta and the group is still active trying to create new projects and extending its reach to new audiences.

I have also discovered that I like to produce great projects and I have had the joy of leading some in which I have summoned a large number of national musicians. On the other hand, I have deepened my knowledge of copyright and intellectual property through ACAM. I have been participating on  the Board of Directors for 10 years and in the last 5 years I have been the president.

I think I have a broader vision of what our musical ecosystem is and the level of commitment is higher since the modern world with the advent of new technologies poses new challenges and small countries like ours are at a disadvantage compared to more developed industries. .

Any tips you can share with young musicians in Costa Rica hoping to pursue a professional music career?

The advice I always give to emerging musicians is to constantly explore and work. The world is constantly changing and hard work is required to survive in an increasingly competitive world.

In Costa Rica, for example, only 4% of the music that is heard in Costa Rica on digital platforms, radio and television is local. In other words, 96% of the Costa Rican public prefers to listen to an international repertoire. That is forcing us to be creative to try to resonate more in our land.

Lastly, trying to develop your own voice or language is essential in an increasingly globalized world.

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