Peru’s traditional music is made up of musical elements from several different cultures: Spanish, Andean, and African mainly. But each group contributed a certain portion to the whole. The indigenous Andean music lent many instruments (especially wind instruments) and many of the folk melodies. They combined that with African rhythms and percussion instruments, and European harmonies and other instruments were introduced, including a variety of string instruments.
Several Peruvian instruments had been developed over the centuries. One of the instruments most associated with Peruvian music is the charango. This instrument is related to the lute and has several variations to it. It’s almost considered the national instrument. Of course, European instruments such as the Spanish guitar, violins, and harps also have made their place in Peruvian music. The cajón is a percussion instrument of African origin, and the cowbell may have also originated from there as well. A number of wind instruments of Andean origin are utilized in Peruvian music like the ocarina, panpipes, the waqra phuku (a type of trumpet), and a number of other types of flutes.
There are many dances that are performed in Peru, and many of these spill over into neighboring areas as well. Some of these dances are Andean in origin while others have been adapted from African or European traditions. Some dances that have strong indigenous or South American traditions include Huayño, Kantu, Diablada, Cueco, Cumbia, Carnavalito, and the Tondero. European traditions can be seen in dances such as Creole Waltz, Chumaichada, and the Polka. There are also several Afro-Peruvian dances that are quite popular, such as the Landó, Zamacueca, Festejo, and the Marinera.
The first rock bands grew out of the American and British rock scenes of the 1960s. Rockabilly, surf rock, garage rock, and psychedelic rock became quite popular with young Peruvians during this time. By the time the late 1970s and early 1980s came about, rock music went underground, and genres like punk and metal became a prominent form of expression as well. However, many Peruvian bands started moving toward more of a progressive rock sound during the 1990s and by the turn of the century, the scene has broadened into a diverse collection of musical styles.
I picked a handful of bands at random to listen to, although there were many Peruvian bands to sift through. I started with the band Frágil. They were a big deal when they first got started in the 1980s. I listened to their live album of them performing with the Philharmonic Orchestra of Lima. I kind of enjoyed it; their music quite melodic, and they really paired up well with the symphonic sound.
Jumping forward, I listened to the band Huelga de hambre. They definitely have a harder sound to them with bass riffs, and the vocals reflect that edginess. I liked their sound.
Soda Stereo is another rock band that started out in the 1990s and continued to perform into the 2000s. They also have a harder rock sound to them at times, yet their vocal lines are melodic. I sense some hints of blues and psychedelic rock in with their music at times as well. It’s catchy. I like it.
When I listened to the Jaguares album Rock Latino, they used a lot of other styles in with their music. Outside of the rock genre it’s based on, they also incorporated a variety of other Latin-based rhythms and musical styles along with some blues.
Traffic Sound actually got its start in the late 1960s and used a lot of that roadhouse rock and psychedelic rock sound, not that different from artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Cream, or The Doors. And that automatically makes me drawn to them. I really liked what I heard.
The band 6 Voltios has kind of a punk sound to them, almost like a Green Day sound at times. I thought it was fun. I could see them being on the Vans Warped Tour soundtrack, if they made a Spanish-language version.
I didn’t do an extensive search, but I did find one hip-hop artist who was born in Lima but currently lives in the US. Immortal Technique typically raps about social injustices and other controversial topics. I listened to portions of his album called The 3rd World. It’s pretty deep. And the music is catchy. I look forward to listening to more of his stuff.
Up next: the food