World Connection

One of the most popular Peruvian singers is hardly known in Europe and the US. The same might even be said of the country. Peru is separated into three distinct regions - the mountains, the jungle and the coastal area. Peruvians descend either from pure Inca stock or are of mixed blood introduced in the 16th century with the arrival of African slaves who later intermarried with the Spanish conquistadores. All brought their own musical inheritances.

Peru's regions each celebrate their own dances and musical styles. Eva Ayllón is from the southern coastal region near Lima. There in the docks and black barrios, a style called Musica Criolla emerged like the tango in Argentina. Eva Ayllón's strength is how she takes this musical heritage and transforms it into a modern form without losing the country heart of the music. Modern and traditional instruments join hands.

Just like flamenco, the Peruvian music has several styles and the dance forms of lando, festejo and vals are the singer's specialties. Though The Afro-Peruvian Legend | Leyenda Peruana is a CD and not video, the presentation of Eva Ayllón conjures up the actual dances. The lando is related to the Brazilian londo and traces back to Angolan origins where it was known as londu. Its tempo is slow to moderately fast. One significant detail is that the lando was forbidden for a long time due to the pelvic movements involved in its execution.

Even more sensual in its moves is the festejo where the dancers follow the beats of the Peruvian cajon, the drum crate also adopted by Flamenco performers. The name of the dance derives from the Spanish fiesta for party. Of note is that the drum crate is an inventive Peruvian response to the Catholic Church's ban against all drums with a skin. In the clergy's eyes, skin-type drums were instruments of the devil that led dancers into ecstatic trances to prevent absorption of the good word by the heathens.

Eva Ayllón performs a mix of all popular Peruvian dances and even adds a salsa and bolero to the present repertoire. The variety of styles makes the CD lively and compelling. The recording is dynamic enough to convey the sensation of rhythm and pace that's so vital for dance-based music. The singer's voice is mature and full of emotion and the musicians accompanying her have to work hard to keep up, creating just the right tension between them. Afro-Peruvian music has for too long remained unknown outside Peru and Eva Ayllón makes for a good entry into this involving style.