If you want to truly understand Peruvian culture and the Spanish language of South America, in addition to learning Spanish in Peru, you can use music as an additional resource. Music is a very important part of Peruvian lives, with instruments and genres passed down from their ancient ancestors – the Incas, the African Slaves and the Spanish Conquerors. Today’s Peruvian music is a beautiful blend of all these different cultures, and completely unique in its style.
Music styles of Peru
Thanks to the fusion of three very different cultures, Peru now has an interesting variety of music styles catering to the choices of its inhabitants, and of the world.
Musica Criolla, or Cancion Criolla, is the most popular music style of Peru – an exceptional blend of African, Andean and Spanish styles. It was first created by African slaves who used a number of their cultural rhythms in it; later, this style began using Spanish and Andean instruments, giving it a multicultural feel. Even today, Musica Criolla is a popular choice and has influenced many traditional dance styles of Peru.
Peruvian Cumbia is also known as the Chicha and is similar to Latin American Cumbia. Extremely popular in Peru, Peruvian Cumbia uses ancient Andean wind instruments, as well as modern electronic guitar and keyboards. Most of the songs under this music style are love songs, but some are also about hardship, loneliness and displacement.
Huaynu, on the other hand, originates from the ancient Andean civilization. It is one of the oldest musical styles of the world and has spread to the neighboring countries beyond Peru, namely – Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Argentina. Today, it is mostly practiced by the Quechua tribe who uses a variety of instruments: saxophone, accordion, flute, guitar, mandolin and violin.
The African slaves developed the Afro-Peruvian music style which spread all over South America, especially Peru. This music style can be said to be a combination of African and Spanish music and uses guitar sounds influenced by flamenco music, and other percussion instruments, including cowbell, Cajon, cajita and quijada.
Afro-Peruvian music has given rise to three very important dance styles of this region: Festejo, Zamaceuca and Lando.
Lando, originating from the Latin word Landu, is a dance whose rhythm is based on black folklore. Zamaceuca, on the other hand, is an erotic dance which was banned in 1990 for all its bold moves. Festejo happens to be a festive dance which celebrates the emancipation of the black slaves in Peru. It was invented by the Africans and requires high energy to perform.
Rock music impressed Peruvian music industry in the 1950s when music personalities like Elvis Presley and Bill Haley took the rest of the world by storm. A number of Peruvian rock bands were formed since then; some of the most notable ones were called Los Stars, Los Millionarios del Jazz, Los Incas Modernos and the Conjunto Astoria.
Instruments used in Peruvian Music
Like its music style, the various instruments used in Peruvian music have also descended from their Andean, Spanish and African ancestors, starting from the melodious wind instruments to the rhythmic percussion ones. The charango is the national instrument of Peru, a member of the flute family mainly used by musicians following their Spanish ancestors. The Spanish guitar and the Spanish bandurria are also two popular stringed instruments of this area used in the music of Peru.
From their Andean ancestors, Peruvians have inherited their love for the ocarina and the waqrapuku, which are basically types of flutes. Andean melodies mostly use panpipes and flutes. There are several other instruments such as pinkillu, tarka, quijada, wankara and quena. African music, on the other hand, uses a very popular percussion instrument called the Cajon. Sometimes, a blend of all these instruments is used together in a single song, making Peruvian music truly unique and beautiful.
Flavors of the Andes
Top Artists of Peruvian Music
Some of the most notable music personalities of Peru are not only famous in their own country but slowly making their mark all over the world, in the hearts of music lovers who are enchanted by Latin music in general, or the music of Peru in particular.
Maria Angelica Ayllon Urbina, or Eva Ayllon, is one of the most popular Afro-American composer and singer of Peru, a legend in the country. She has been nominated six times for her work for the Latin Grammy Award for Best Folk Album. This 61-year old singer began her musical journey in 1973 and released her first US album in 2004. Throughout her musical life, she has released over 20 hit albums, as well as a compilation of her best work over the last 40 years.
Gian Marco Javier Zignago Alcover is most commonly known as Gian Marco. He is a popular singer and songwriter of Peru who has won the Latin Grammy Award for his album; not once, but three times. In his lifetime, he has also been nominated and won several other prestigious awards in Peru and wrote a number of songs for world-famous singers, including Marc Anthony.
Carlos Hayre passed away in 2012; in his lifetime, he was a renowned singer and guitarist in Peru. Over a 40-year long career, he composed many songs to be performed with waltzes, huayno, sailor and mull dances. He was a celebrated musician of Peru and used jazz arrangements and modern harmonies in his work.
Anna Carina Copello is a popular Peruvian pop singer commonly known as Anna Carina. She is hugely popular among the young music lovers of Peru and won the MTV EMA Best Latin American Artist Award in 2013. She has written more than 10 hit singles and the theme songs for a number of popular television films.
Pedro Suarez Vertie was the founder of one of the most popular rock bands of Peru – Arena Hash. Other members of this rock band included his older brother; however, the band broke up very soon and Pedro Vertie started his solo career as a singer. With Arena Hash, Pedro released 3 albums and 9 albums in his solo career. Besides being a renowned singer, he was also popular for his philanthropy, his guitar collection and the fact that he doesn’t take alcohol or any drugs, something unusual in the rock scene.
The Peruvian singer and composer Maria Isabel Granda Lorco was most popularly known as Chabuca Granda. She passed away in 1983, leaving behind her a large fan base and a number of Afro-Peruvian and Criola Waltz rhythms. She enriched Peruvian history by blending beautiful modern music into her passion for Afro-Peruvian works.
Arturo “Zambo” Cavero had a huge fan following in the African community of Peru; he also loved performing traditional waltz music. Afro-Peruvian influence is evident in his work and his beautiful voice kept his followers captivated for many, many years. The day he passed away in 2009 was declared a national mourning day by the government.
Finally, the glamorous Stephanie Cayo who is not only a singer and a songwriter but also a model and an actress. She made her debut on Peruvian television as a 9-year old TV actress but soon gained popularity as a singer in her adolescent years. Her first album was released in 2011; at present, she is a part of a Netflix Original TV Series and has just launched her first English solo song in December 2016.
Music is embedded in the hearts of Peruvians from a very long time; Peru has some of the most melodious and exceptional music styles in the world. To properly know or understand Peruvian culture, one must definitely take the music of Peru into focus, at all times. Discovering the music of Peru is also a great way to learn Spanish, instructive and pleasant at the same time. Read more about the music of Peru in Wikipedia.
How to LIVE the music in Peru?
The experience we offer in our Spanish schools in Latin America goes beyond classroom teaching. You will be able to live first hand the local culture, including music and enjoy shows, excursions and exhibitions, and much more. Ask us for more information today!