As the third-largest nation in South America, Perú comprises a population of coastal, Amazonian and Andean inhabitants. In addition to Spanish, Quechua and Aymara, numerous Amazonian languages are also spoken. Its precolonial history includes ancient cultures well before the Incan Empire established its dominance in the 1400s, and many of Perú's instruments can be traced to that time.
Most of what has been documented of the country's music revolves around one of the most ancient pre-encounter musical traditions: Andean music. With panpipes, flutes, drums and percussion instruments, many rhythms and dances of the Andes remain today as a testament to their perseverance, with Peruvians committed to passing on the traditions of their ancestors. From the huayno (or wayno) to the haunting yaraví, many Andean forms retain their place in the indigenous culture much the way they have for centuries. However, not much attention was paid to another of Perú's most vibrant traditions: that of Afro-Peruvian music.
On the coast, people (and music) are generally referred to as Criollo (Creole), where we find a myriad of rhythms and dancessome directly descendant from Europe, such as the northern Spanish jota to the Viennese waltz. There was a significant slave population brought to areas along the coast, and the presence of neo-African cultural expression began to take shape by the 1700s. However, the manifestation of the religious (or spiritual) characteristics was limited, if not completely dominated by the Catholic Church, resulting in music that reflected a more secular Creole culture. The genres that emerged during the colonial era included the zamacueca, which later became the marinera by around 1900 and went on to inspire the creation of Argentina's zamba and Chile's cueca. As a courtship pantomime dance, the marinera's popularity spread from the coast to the Andean regions, where it often was (and still is) interpreted by brass bands called bandas. However, its traditional form is still the most popular, as is witnessed wherever Peruvians settle and engage in marinera dance contests. Other Creole forms include the tondero, the jarana and the socabón, all featuring distinctive dances and elaborate poetry.
After the 1950s, Afro-Peruvian (or Creole) music began to be recorded, and the instrumentation that emerged included the Spanish guitar, the cajón (a wooden box drum that is sat on and struck with the hands) and the quijada (jawbone of a mule). In northern Perú, gourd drums (called angara and checo) were also added to this ensemble.
Two of the most popular forms of Afro-Peruvian music are the landó and the festejo. The origins of the landó were unfortunately forgotten, but the popular form played today contains a rich 6/8 rhythm and call-and-response vocals, as well as graceful hip movements. The festejo is considered one of the most popular and important styles, with lyrics that reflect historical accounts of slavery to festive themes, free-style dancing and responsorial vocals in a lively, up-beat rhythmic setting.
Novelty dances also emerged based on the festejo, with gyrating pelvic moves to competitive zapateado (footwork). Since the 1970s, several artists have propelled these genres to international recognition, including Perú Negro, Chabuca Granda, Lucila Campos, Eva Ayllón, Susana Baca and Arturo "Zambo" Cavero. Today, festejos and landos can be heard in popular nightclubs alongside Salsa and merengue as Afro-Peruvian music gains national and international popularity. Rebeca Mauleon