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    Historic Debut Album released | June 2002
Stonetree Records and Sony Music Central America present the debut album of the first and only regional band from Central America: La Orquesta de la Papaya.
Featuring musicians from the seven Central American countries, Including Belizeans Bredda David Obi and Mohobub, Guatemala's Lenín Fernández, Nicaraguans Marcos, Yader and Domingo Martínez; Salvador's Oscar "El Chele" Menjívar; Panamanians Ornelis Cortés, Raúl Vital, Antonio de la Cruz and Miguel Angel Leguisamo; Hondurans Juan Astor Norales and Ramón EduardoCedeño and the group’s leader and musical director, Costa Rica’s noted Jazz pianist Manuel Obregon.

La Orquesta de la Papaya was born in January of 2002 through the efforts of Obregón, who was able to bring together 13 musicians that combine the Mayan, beat of Guatemala with Garifuna songs from Belize and Honduras and Nicaraguan marimbas, as well as other styles from the isthmus.

The musical wealth of Central America is not disseminated around the world, which is why our goal is to fill that gap, to make our rhythms and our diversity known," explained Manuel Obregón, in a conversation with IPS.

This band is an unprecedented project, and for many, incredible, because it melts the rich and varied cultural expressions of one of the world's most fragmented regions, in spite of its relatively small size, with 523,000 square km and 36 million inhabitants.

Obregón's dream came true with the first series of concerts with the band at Costa Rica's National Auditorium in February, which led to the recording of the band’s first album: Manuel Obregón y la Orquesta de la Papaya, recently released in Central America and Mexico.

The album consists of 14 songs recorded live at concerts in which the musicians utilized a total of 50 instruments, many of which were handmade by the members of the group. The album also contains new arrangements of Belizean classics such as Shal I Baby by Wilfred Peters, Naguya Nei by Paul Nabor as well a Belizean Creole Medley and Hello Everybody by Bredda David Obi.

"Our music is contemporary, but based on tradition," a combination of modernity and regional folklore, Obregón said. "What we want is for the world to see whom we Central Americans are,"Nicaraguan musician Yader Martínez, told IPS. At 15, the marimba player is the youngest member of the group.

A short tour in late July in Mexico and Guatemala marked the Orquesta de la Papaya's international debut. Next on the musicians' itinerary are Nicaragua, Brazil and Belize. The schedule for the next year includes a month-long visit to Canada and a European tour.

"I am pleased because I am experiencing something that I have always believed in: the unity of Central Americans," said Fernández, a Guatemalan, and the group's percussionist.

The group is planning to record its second album in January, and to continue touring in order to infect the world with passion for Central American music.

Visit Manuel Obregon's web site for more information on this project and his exquisite discography of piano recordings: www.papayamusic.com
 
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