Andrés Cervilla: Part I

Feature photo: AndrésCervillaPabloCambronero.jpeg. Andrés Cervilla is a Costa Rican award-winning trombone player, seashell player, producer, and sound designer. Photo by Pablo Cambronero. Courtesy of Andrés Cervilla.

Feature photo: Andrés Cervilla is a Costa Rican award-winning trombone player, seashell player, producer, and sound designer. Photo by Pablo Cambronero. Courtesy of Andrés Cervilla.

PART I: Andrés Cervilla’s Musical Art of the Trombone and Seashells

Andrés Cervilla is a Costa Rican award-winning trombone player, seashell player, producer, and sound designer. Through his musical art of wind instruments, he connects with his ancestry and merges many cultures and musical traditions. He creates mind-blowing tropical futuristic music that directly connects with the soul and heart by generating new emotions, sensations, and feelings.


Andrés Cervilla is a Costa Rican award-winning trombone, seashell player, producer, and sound designer. At a young age, he discovered that music was his purpose and mission in life. Music chose him, and that particular discipline in his life has always made him feel special. One of his happiest childhood memories involving music was when he found a vinyl at home that contained Maurice Ravel’s Boléro.

“Ravel’s Boléro is one of my favorite classical or orchestral pieces. When I was a child, I’d take whatever stick I’d find. I’d stand on the bed and would direct an orchestra,” Cervilla said, holding a pencil mimicking an orchestra director. “I’d created this movie in my mind that I was directing a great orchestra.”

Later, when he was eleven years old and in fifth grade, his school created a marching band. He joined the band and began playing the drums. That initial encounter with music developed a sense of discipline in Cervilla. It taught him about constantly going to rehearsals and playing with a band’s section.


The discipline he acquired for the drums generated great effervescence and adrenaline in Cervilla. He recalled the times he’d play the instrument during the Independence Day festivals in Costa Rica on September 15. During those festivities, Cervilla would fervently play the drums until his hands bled.

“I’d live it with such levels of passion. I’d jump. Music made me feel so much adrenaline when I was a child,” Cervilla remembered.

Then, at 14 years old, his high school band received wind instruments. The school wanted to transform the band into a wind instrument band. Cervilla listened to a lot of ska music then and immediately associated wind instruments with that particular music genre. He was very drawn to the trumpet and saxophone. However, they were already taken when he went to the band, and the only remaining instruments were the trombone and tuba.

“I said: shit, with the tuba, I can’t play ska. So, I’ll have to play the trombone and that’s how I ended up choosing the trombone. That’s when I started my training in high school,” Cervilla said. “Then, in 2000, when I turned 15 years old, I auditioned for the Youth Symphony Orchestra. The National Music Institute. That’s where I had my formal training in music from my adolescence to a bit more adult.”

PabloCambroneroInfibeat2.jpeg. Andrés Cervilla playing the trombone with Infibeat in Costa Rica. Photo by Pablo Cambronero. Courtesy of Andrés Cervilla.
Andrés Cervilla playing the trombone with Infibeat in Costa Rica. Photo by Pablo Cambronero. Courtesy of Andrés Cervilla.

Cervilla was learning the best of both worlds: classical, formal music, and popular ska music. As he trained to become a better trombone player, he took what he was learning to the ska world. He didn’t see a separation between the academic and popular worlds. They were converging.


He felt at home in popular music, his territory, but Cervilla always tried to take the best of the classical world. This engaging musical combination sprouted in his adolescence and made it to adulthood.

Steve Turre and the Seashell

While perfecting his trombone technique during his teenage years, Cervilla also found himself with a unique and unconventional instrument: the seashell. This instrument is also intertwined with his love for ska music.


One of the first CDs he bought was from The Skatalites. When he was 16 or 17, he purchased a 90’s album from The Skatalites. When he listened to that album, he was fascinated with a song that contained a trombone solo accompanied by the band. He read the CD’s pamphlet and noticed the trombone player was U.S. trombonist and jazz player Steve Turre.

“I had this obsession with finding where I could listen to Steve Turre’s music. Who’s this guy? He became my hero when I listened to that trombone solo. Then, my aunt traveled to San Francisco, and I told her to find out if there were CDs from Steve Turre,” Cervilla recalled.

Once his aunt returned from San Francisco, she brought two of Steve Turre’s albums: “Lotus Flower” and “Sanctified Shells.” Cervilla loved the first one because it was a very experimental music piece. It was a jazz quintet with strings, African drums, and sort of Hindu sonorities. Yet, it was a different story with “Sanctified Shells.”


The album’s cover threw him off. Turre was holding a big seashell, and Cervilla did not understand what was happening. He started deciphering that Turre was playing seashells. Initially, Cervilla was a bit disappointed that none of the CDs had ska music, but it took him some time to connect with “Sanctified Shells.”


Once he made that deep connection, he became obsessed with the album. It was 2001, and that led him to do some research on the Internet.

“I found Steve Turre’s personal email and I wrote him some fan mail. I wrote: Steve, I’m 16 years old. I play the trombone. I don’t like classical music that much,” Cervilla said, laughing. “I want to play seashells. I’d love to someday play seashells. Your album is the best CD I’ve listened to in my whole life.”

Andrés&SteveTurre.jpg. When Andrés Cervilla met Steve Turre for the first time in New York. Courtesy of Andrés Cervilla.
When Andrés Cervilla met Steve Turre for the first time in New York. Courtesy of Andrés Cervilla.

Cervilla wrote the email without any expectations of getting a reply from Turre. Two months passed, and Turre answered him.

“I can’t even tell you [what I felt]. It was as if my idol answered me. Well, he’s still my idol. He was my number one musical idol on the planet, and he answered my email,” Cervilla said, still excited. “That allowed me to create a link with him. Today, it’ll be very difficult for a teenager to write an email to Taylor Swift and for her to reply. Steve Turre was the equivalent of that for me. He was my greatest musical hero.”

 SteveTurreJuanEspinoza3.jpeg. Andrés Cervilla and Steve Turre in Costa Rica. Photo by Juan Espinoza. Courtesy of Andrés Cervilla.
Andrés Cervilla and Steve Turre in Costa Rica. Photo by Juan Espinoza. Courtesy of Andrés Cervilla.

Cervilla remembered enthusiastically that he was screaming out of excitement when he got that initial reply. He answered Turre and told him that on a trip to the beach with his parents, he found a seashell and took it back home.


Cervilla found himself with the minor inconvenience of being unable to make the seashell sound. So, he asked Turre for help. Turre answered back and gave him a detailed explanation of what he needed to do to make the seashell sound. Cervilla was instructed on how to cut the shell and create its mouthpiece.

SteveTurreJuanEspinoza2.jpeg. Andrés Cervilla and Steve Turre performing together in San José, Costa Rica. Photo by Juan Espinoza. Courtesy of Andrés Cervilla
Andrés Cervilla and Steve Turre performing together in San José, Costa Rica. Photo by Juan Espinoza. Courtesy of Andrés Cervilla.

“That blew my mind,” Cervilla said.

Turre told him how to vibrate his mouth and place his hand inside the shell to acquire different sounds. The hand should be placed just as if he were playing the trombone. Cervilla learned about the seashell at the same time he played the trombone in his adolescence.

SteveTurreJuanEspinoza.jpeg. Andrés Cervilla and Steve Turre performing together in San José, Costa Rica. Photo by Juan Espinoza. Courtesy of Andrés Cervilla
SteveTurreJuanEspinoza.jpeg. Andrés Cervilla and Steve Turre performing together in San José, Costa Rica. Photo by Juan Espinoza. Courtesy of Andrés Cervilla

For Cervilla, playing the seashells implies connecting with music from a different place because it’s a simple instrument. It has a very strong, profound, and sweet sound. It’s simple and limited because it doesn’t have the 12 notes that a regular instrument provides. It has a dynamic range of six or seven notes.

“That simplicity and ancestry that the instrument has, makes you connect with this energy. You know you’re playing a prehistoric instrument. Seashells have millennia of existence on Earth,” Cervilla said. “It’s an instrument that possibly existed before writing. It’s an instrument that naturally connects you with your ancestors.”

Moving to Puerto Rico

At a young age, Cervilla’s dominion of the trombone and seashells led him to his next exciting adventure: studying jazz and Caribbean music at the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music. Puerto Rico drastically changed his life and his overall perspective on music.

“When I studied in Puerto Rico, I could see a side of music that I hadn’t experienced here in Costa Rica. First of all, at that time, there was no capacity to learn a lot of self-taught things. If you didn’t have the books, there was no way of having the information unless you had the right professors,” Cervilla said.

One of the right professors Cervilla met in Puerto Rico was Hommy Ramos . He was the best professor for Cervilla because he taught him how to play jazz and changed his perspective on music due to the convergence of various music genres at the same time.

HommyRamos.jpg. Andrés Cervilla and Puerto Rican trombone player Hommy Ramos. Courtesy of Andrés Cervilla.
Andrés Cervilla and Puerto Rican trombone player Hommy Ramos. Courtesy of Andrés Cervilla.

“He was Tego Calderón’s trombonist. My professor was a reggaetonero who was teaching me jazz. That link between studying jazz and having a professor who was a reggaetonero created something new toward my Latin American identity,” Cervilla said. “All of the worlds I move through came together in Puerto Rico. Urban music with Latin jazz and jazz. I feel those genres are the ones that define me the most. This is what I ended up doing with my life.”

Puerto Rico was synonymous with an impressive musical crossover for Cervilla. He started seeing the world from a different angle that didn’t imply a certain formality he thought of before. It was a before-and-after with how he identified himself with the Latin American tradition.


Besides merging musical genres, he also created many relationships with people from Puerto Rico, Mexico, the United States, and Panama. While he was in Puerto Rico, he played his seashells and often called Turre to chat about his technique.

PabloCambroneroInfibeat.jpeg. Andrés Cervilla playing the seashell. Photo by Pablo Cambronero. Courtesy of Andrés Cervilla.
Andrés Cervilla playing the seashell. Photo by Pablo Cambronero. Courtesy of Andrés Cervilla.

During his time in Puerto Rico, he also mastered his musical art of the trombone and seashells. He understood that music is the most direct channel through which he has to communicate with the divinity of existence. With God and his internal cosmos. Music is the number one purpose he was born with, and it’s a type of expression he believes has the capacity to reach the heart directly.

“You can play three notes, and those three musical notes create an emotion or feeling. No other art can be as direct to the heart as music. It’s one of the most beautiful things that music gives me,” Cervilla said. “The possibility of making someone feel good is extremely powerful. Each time you play in a concert, you’re aware that music has this power to unite people.”

Music unites people but also makes them forget about their problems during a concert. It’s also art, and for Cervilla, art is the purest expression form for human beings. It’s like a tree that’s growing because it’s a manifestation of nature channeled through human beings.


After Cervilla perfected his musical art in Puerto Rico, he moved to Argentina, where he played with the reggae band Nonpalidece. He kept working through his musical art and learned that through both instruments, he channels his spirituality. Whenever he does a solo with either instrument, he’s having a simultaneous conversation with the audience and the universe. His notes travel kilometers.


He understands his live performances and rehearsals as ones where he produces energy.

“You’re physically making energy. When you’re in a rehearsal room and by the third song, everyone’s covered in sweat. That’s because the sound is coming out as a vibration. The sound is vibrating on all the walls and you’re producing heat,” Cervilla said.

Music is energy for Cervilla, and that energy is necessary for him to make a more intense and deep connection. After perfecting his technique with Nonpalidece and intense years of touring, Cervilla returned to Costa Rica. Once he was there, his friend Antonio Baker, who was working in developing video game programming, reached out to Cervilla to see if he could produce music for a video game.

Joining Señor Loop

That led Cervilla into a new world of music production, sound design and the founding of his own sound creation factory business “ PEE-PAH! Fábrica de Sonido.” One day in October 2013, his friend Ricardo Machado called when he was working on some music for a cartoon. Machado asked Cervilla if he knew the Panamanian band, Señor Loop.

Cervilla said he hadn’t really listened to them, but everyone told him about the band and that he should go to their concert. Machado offered him to play with the band. Cervilla said he’d be cool with it, but he was very busy with work at the moment and had no time to go to the soundcheck.

SeñorLoop.jpg. Andrés Cervilla with Señor Loop. From left to right: Carlos Ucar, Chale Icaza, Toni Drums, Iñaki Iriberri, and Lilo Sánchez. Courtesy of Andrés Cervilla.
Andrés Cervilla with Señor Loop. From left to right: Carlos Ucar, Chale Icaza, Toni Drums, Iñaki Iriberri, and Lilo Sánchez. Courtesy of Andrés Cervilla.

Machado hung up and spoke with Señor Loop. He called Cervilla back and told him they said there was no gig without soundcheck. So, Cervilla rejected the offer because he was too busy.

“My friend Daniel Solano was sitting next to me. We were recording some guitars. He whispered: mae, don’t be an idiot. Go. Go,” Cervilla recalled, laughing. “So, I told Ricardo Machado: ok. It’s fine. I’ll go to the soundcheck.”

Andrés&Lilo.JPG. Lilo Sánchez and Andrés Cervilla the day Cervilla met Señor Loop. Courtesy of Andrés Cervilla.
Lilo Sánchez and Andrés Cervilla the day Cervilla met Señor Loop. Courtesy of Andrés Cervilla.

Cervilla left behind everything he was working on. He listened to Señor Loop’s song “Quieras o No” and learned it. He got to the soundcheck and was pretty shy. He met the band but didn’t know who was who. He played the song, and it went pretty well.

“It was a special moment for them because they had never listened to the song with a trombone playing live. [The vocalist], Lilo always says tears streamed down because of how impressed he was to listen to the song with a real trombone,” Cervilla said.

That initial performance sparked an ongoing collaboration for Cervilla with Señor Loop. The next day, he joined them for breakfast and was told he’d continue playing with the band. Then, in January 2014, Lilo invited Cervilla to join them at the Jazz Festival in Panama.

Andrés,Iñaki&Lilo.jpg. From left to right: Iñaki Iriberri, Andrés Cervilla, and Lilo Sánchez. Courtesy of Andrés Cervilla.
From left to right: Iñaki Iriberri, Andrés Cervilla, and Lilo Sánchez. Courtesy of Andrés Cervilla.

After that, the band was challenged with a personal issue.

“Lilo was diagnosed with cancer and that made Señor Loop’s operation stop for two years. I was in the group, but living the process of Lilo’s treatment until the band was able to play again with Lilo. It was a rearranging process,” Cervilla said.

Cervilla became part of a band during a very complex moment. That complexity allowed him to cultivate his friendship with Iñaki Iriberri, who plays the guitar and keyboards with Señor Loop. That’s when Cervilla started working and rehearsing at a distance: Cervilla in Costa Rica and Iriberri in Panama.


It was also when Cervilla started noticing a special bonding and connection on a human level with the band’s members—something different.

“Musically [speaking], anyone can play with them, but there’s something in the mystique. Those maes are family, and I know that I’m family for them. It’s something that transcends the musical part,” Cervilla said. “I don’t think I’m special for playing with Señor Loop, but there’s something on a human level that made me land something special with them. I think that energy has something to do with them taking me to play with them [in Panama].”

Andrés&Iñaki.jpg. Andrés Cervilla and Iñaki Iriberri recording together. Courtesy of Andrés Cervilla.
Andrés Cervilla and Iñaki Iriberri recording together. Courtesy of Andrés Cervilla.

Developing that special bond with the band also implied a different musical process for Cervilla. They collaborate digitally because of the physical distance. He rehearses mainly with Iriberri online. Iriberri tells him what to do and play. Cervilla does not argue with him and does whatever he’s told, which makes the process easier to carry out.

When the time came to record Señor Loop’s album “La Leña Que Prende Madera,” Cervilla was glad to collaborate musically with small ideas from his expertise in trombone and seashells. But then, the Covid-19 pandemic hit, a new challenge for the band. It meant seeing the band cease to exist for four years until March of this year with their concerts in Panama and Costa Rica.

SeñorLoop2.JPG. Photo of Señor Loop for their album “La Leña Que Prende Madera.” Photo by Pablo Cambronero. Courtesy of Andrés Cervilla.
Photo of Señor Loop for their album “La Leña Que Prende Madera.” Photo by Pablo Cambronero. Courtesy of Andrés Cervilla.

“It was crazy to live four years with the fear that people would probably not care about the band, but it was nice to find ourselves with an audience that grew. There are younger people listening to the band or people who found the group during the pandemic,” Cervilla said. “Many people here in Costa Rica told me Señor Loop accompanied them during the pandemic.”

Recording a 2000 year-old Sound Bank

The challenges encountered with Señor Loop happened simultaneously with Cervilla exploring music in a transcendental manner. In 2015, the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum of Costa Rica invited Cervilla to join a special project: Métafora de los Sonidos (metaphor of the sounds). They wanted him to record and play a display of 23 instruments they had in their archives. These were instruments that are more than 2,000 years old.

“No one had ever heard many of those instruments. The archaeologists hadn’t heard them. It was not like they dusted off the instruments and played them. They keep them protected [in a safe place],” Cervilla said. “We recorded them at the museum’s vaults and we recorded each ocarina one by one. The notes and I recorded a melodic improvisation with each one.”

The recording of that sound bank was a joint collaboration with archaeologists, graphic designers, curators, educators, and his artist friend Joan Villaperros. For Cervilla, it was a very special project and moment in his life because of what it implied. These instruments had not sounded in 1,000 or 1,500 years.


It was a project reminiscent of his musical art of wind instruments, which he connects with his ancestry and love for merging many cultures and musical traditions. It’s part of the music that blows his mind with its ability to directly connect with the soul and heart by generating new emotions, sensations, and feelings.

“That was when I had that connection for the first time. A connection I had never felt before and understood that I was playing Chorotega instruments or instruments with 2,000 years of antiquity. That blows your mind and changes your perspective,” Cervilla said. “It’s an instrument that was created way before the current conception of music existed. It’s a trip in time. You’re listening to the same thing someone listened to 1,500 years ago.”

To learn more about Andrés Cervilla, follow him on Instagram at @andres_cervilla, on Spotify at Andrés Cervilla, or visit his  website.


Stay tuned for PART II. There, you’ll explore Andrés Cervilla’s tropical futurism in his personal projects UachiMán, Los Excavators, and PEE-PAH! Fábrica de Sonido.


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