Passion for the Beat

PURA VIDA – One of our favorite local bands

Pura Vida on New Year’s Eve 2017

Toes were tapping. Fingers were snapping in syncopated time. Partners were twirling. Even people without a drop of salsa in their blood were letting the music take them away. It was, after all, pretty much impossible not to get up and dance with that infectious Latin beat filling up every square inch of air. 

 Such was our first introduction some years ago to the music of PURA VIDA, a local Latin dance band fronted by our very own innkeeper Margi Gomez and her husband Jorge. Since then, we’ve had the great pleasure to experience them in action at numerous events and venues, including our very own Great Room on special occasions like Valentine’s Day and Cinco de Mayo. As a band, they have gone through many iterations in their 25 plus years of playing together. Here at BGI, they generally play as a cozy group of 3 or 4, perfect for the inn’s intimate space, but they’re pulling out all the stops and bringing in the whole crew for their New Year’s Eve show this year at the Mendocino Hotel – we’re definitely going to join in the fun and dance our shoes off with them that night!

 The leaders of PURA VIDA, Margi and Jorge, have both been immersed in music since they were small children. Jorge remembers learning guitar from his grandfather, who sang on the radio in Guatemala, and was himself accepted to the Conservatory of Music there when he was only 6 years old. He continued with music after his family moved to the States when he was 7, and he performed in numerous bands growing up, playing everything from the Beatles to classical guitar. Margi also started early, learning piano as quite a young girl and then jumping into a rock ‘n’ roll band when she was in high school. As adults, the two of them explored many different genres, including reggae and flamenco rock, before they really sank their teeth into the Latin-based dance rhythms that PURA VIDA is known for.

 When Jorge and Margi connected with master percussionist Amunka Dávila, PURA VIDA blossomed into a celebration of the great musical complexity of Latin America. They incorporated the rhythms and styles of cumbia, salsa, merengue, flamenco, samba, and bossa, to name a few. The group drew inspiration from the likes of Celia Cruz and The Buena Vista Social Club. Then they threw in a few dashes of jazz, funk, and good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll, and created a dynamite formula for getting people off their feet and onto the dance floor. They’ve perfected this signature musical blend over the years into pure salsa magic. As Margi says, “We call it SALSA PICANTE. It really brings people together!” 

 PURA VIDA (which translates to PURE LIFE) regularly gets the party started for a wide range of events and private parties, including fundraisers and festivals such as the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens’ Festival of Lights and Art in the Gardens, as well as many winery events, weddings, and private functions – even our own staff parties here at BGI. They most often perform within Mendocino County, but have also been booked for shows in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. One such event in Menlo Park was booked by some guests who fell in love with the group’s sound when they were playing at the inn for a Valentine’s Day Wine Hour!  

 The other day, we asked Margi how PURA VIDA's musical journey might evolve in the future. She thought for a minute, then responded, “You know, that’s what I really love about Latin music - it’s endlessly interesting. There’s literally no end to the rhythms and instrumentation that we can incorporate into our practice and performance. You could say our goal is to share our joy in this music with as much of Northern California as we possibly can.”

 To check out PURA VIDA’s upcoming events, buy one of their CD’s, or book them for a party all your own, get in touch with Margi at :

Photo courtesy of Deirdre Lamb

Photo courtesy of Deirdre Lamb

Written by Laura Hockett

Experiences, MusicLaura Hockett