Afro-Peruvian music has its roots within the communities of black slaves brought to Peru by the Spanish conquistadores to work in the mines along the Pacific coast in the 1500s. Slave owners prohibited musical instruments in attempts to crush the spirit of the slaves, but the slaves invented new ways of making sound – anything could be an instrument, including a simple box or tea chest, which became known as the cajon, a collection box used in church (cajita), and even the jaws of deceased donkeys (quijada). As ever, necessity was the mother of invention.
Despite making up around 10% of the Peruvian population, over the centuries the unique culture and music was little known until a few record companies began supporting a revival in the 1950s. The revival drew upon the old rhythms whilst also incorporating Spanish and Andean elements. Nueva cancion, the revolutionary music of the 1960s, which started as a social movement in Chile and spread throughout the continent, was also reflected in the new Afro-Peruvian music. There was an affinity of purpose in many ways, which led to cross-pollination between the styles.
Susana Baca, Chabuca Granda, Zamba Cavero and Peru Negro are all big names within the tradition. One of the most noticeable performers who brought Afro-Peruvian music to the attention of the greater Peruvian population was Nicomedes Santa Cruz. His music carries the fusion of African rhythm and Latin melody.
Listen to Mándame Quitar La Vida by Nicomedes Santa Cruz:
Of the other notable musicians, Amador Ballumbrosio is perhaps best known. He played the cajon and the violin exceptionally well and dedicated his life to celebrating and innovating within the Afro-Peruvian rhythms. He fathered fifteen children, all of whom have gone on to be musicians, most noticeably his son, Miguel, who can be heard playing music with other successful Afro-Peruvian musicians such as Rodolfo Muñoz.
Watch Miguel Ballumbrosio and Rodolfo Muñoz perform an afro-peruvian song:
The Ballumbrosio family are from El Carmen, Chincha - a small town in the Ica region, which still has a significant black population. There are even rumours of a cultural centre in honour of the late Amador Ballumbrosio being opened in the town. In Barranco, a trendy district of Lima, a bar called La Noche hosts a monthly night of Afro-Peruvian music. Coastal towns south of Lima such as San Vincente de Canete are also home to Afro-Peruvian rhythms; a trip there may provide opportunities to hear the unique sound.
While Afro-Peruvian music remains little known around the world, the fact of its endurance speaks of the power of the music itself. Although deeply rooted in the distant past, the music being made today has lost none of its vitality and is played as a contemporary expression and not as a historical artefact. The rhythms are mostly 6/8 and after time has been spent familiarising oneself with the beats, the unique polyrhythms are unforgettable.
Power to the Peaceful Festival in SF
We are marching down Haight Street, through the park to Speedway Meadow. Come Join us.
On Saturday, September 10th 2005, visionary musician, filmmaker and human rights worker, Michael Franti along with his band, Spearhead and Guerrilla Management present the 7th Annual 911 Power to the Peaceful Festival (PTTP) at Speedway Meadow in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.
Now in its seventh year, PTTP is an annual series of free, outdoor music and arts festivals with a social justice message bringing together international musicians, local artists and renowned speakers in a large festival atmosphere