For thirty years Afro-Peruvian singer Eva Ayllón has been selling out theaters not only at home in Peru—where she can fill a stadium of 30,000—but here in North America as well. For the non-Peruvian audience, this may have gone unnoticed until now. With her first-ever USA-produced release, Eva! Leyenda Peruana, on September 7, 2004, Times Square Records brings this legendary voice to new fans in time for her extensive North American tour in September and October. Concertgoers in Chicago, Montreal, Toronto, Dallas, San Francisco, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Boston, New York and several other towns will hear what the compatriots of “the Queen of Landó” have known all along.
As Ayllón announced at a Los Angeles performance last year, “I’m not going to stop what I’m doing until every American has heard these songs.”
Ayllón focuses on the elegant and lively genres of the coastal plains of Lima in particular. She is known for singing the landó, the festejo, and the vals; all mestizo blends of Peru’s indigenous, African, and Spanish musical heritage. The guitar recalls flamenco idioms one moment and alludes to Andean mountain music the next. The cajón—a wooden percussion box thought to be derived from an agricultural crate—translates African rhythms to Latin America. Call-and-response, complex syncopation, and polyrhythms combine with sweet, melancholic melodies to create a sound unique to Peru’s diverse ancestry.
Africans came to Peru as slaves in the 1500s. Peru’s population is so diverse that poet Ricardo Palma wrote, “If you are not Inca, you are Mandinga,” implying that all Peruvians have indigenous or African blood, or both. In the 1950s and ’60s, a revival took place bringing back the African-influenced styles of music and dance. While it is not known which interpretations are authentic or reconstructions, Afro-Peruvian music as a whole has been embraced by all Peruvians and is a source of great pride.
The new CD Eva! Leyenda Peruana opens with “Negra Presuntuosa” (“Presumptuous Black Woman”) and, along with the recording’s other landós, shows how even though this rhythm is a slower tempo, it is as compelling as any other Caribbean beat. The pulse picks up with festejos such as “Ingá”—composed by Nicomedes SantaCruz, the man who launched the renaissance of Black Peruvian music and dance four decades ago—and “Jolgorio de Eva,” whose verses tell of life under slavery. The disc is rounded out with a variety of genres including bolero, tondero, salsa, and vals. The latter style is derived from the Viennese waltz, but in the Peruvian version are romantic poetic torch songs adorned by shimmering Spanish guitar riffs. Ayllón’s impeccable delivery and engagement with her audiences has secured a lifetime of theaters packed with Peruvians around the world. With the new CD and Fall tour, a wider circle of American fans will discover this once-hidden treasure of Black Peru.