[Review] Afro-Peruvian Classics: The Soul of Black Peru (1995)

The slave music of Peru, brought to you by your benevolent white masters.

Kronomyth 8.4: Machu man.

The gnawing fear that David Byrne is a musical imperialist is none assuaged by the freakshow photo of Lucila Campos on the cover or his flat version of Maria Lando, in which the southern tongue rolls about as easy in his mouth as a block of wood. However, this compilation is not about David Byrne, even if that’s what you thought you came to hear. The Soul of Black Peru instead captivates through an interesting gallery of artists performing songs that are associated with the Peruvian slave trade. Apparently. Honestly, I’d be lucky to find the place on a map. I know it’s near Chile, where I’m sure there are some miffed Chilean musicians who wish David Byrne had made a disc featuring their slave music. (Note to readers: do not do a search on “chile slave” on the Internet. In the event that you already have and the government comes knocking on your door, tell them you were researching a book you’re writing about Pete Townshend.)

Because I’m not the musical sophisticate you think I am, I have to confess that a lot of this sounds like Brazilian folk music to me (sung in Spanish or, in Byrne’s case, Latin I think), so I can’t speak to the subtle innovations that the African slaves brought to the Peruvian folk scene. That’s the work of ethnomusicologists, and I’m just some doughy white guy who knows a little html and likes to hear himself talk. I do hear in this music a mixture of African folk/pop music (bass guitar, propulsive rhythms) and Southern American folk/pop (flamenco-styled playing, a melancholy spirit, wind instruments), but as far as pointing to something and saying “That’s Peruvian!,” I wouldn’t be peruvian anything but my own ignorance. If ethnomusicology intrigues you or you simply enjoy working the word “ethnomusicology” into your sentences (as I do), The Soul of Black Peru is a neat musical slideshow for fifty minutes.

The Songs

  1. Susana Baca: Maria Lando (words by Cesar Calvo, music by Chabuca Granda) (5:37)
  2. Manuel Donavre: Yo No Soy Jaqui (Carlos Soto de la Colina) (3:00)
  3. Cecilia Barraza: Canterurias (Chabuca Granda) (3:49)
  4. Lucila Campos: Samba Malato (Nicomedes Santa Cruz) (3:16)
  5. Roberto Rivas & el Conj. Gente Morena: Enciendete, Canela (Roberto Rivas) (2:34)
  6. Eva Ayllon: Azuca de Cana (Daniel “Kiri” Escobar) (4:23)
  7. Abelardo Vasquez & Cumanana: Prendeme la Vela (Abelardo Vasquez) (3:37)
  8. Chabuca Granda: Lando (Chabuca Granda) (3:31)
  9. Lucila Campos: Toro Mata (Carlos Soto de la Colina) (4:08)
  10. Peru Negro: Son de los Diablos (Filameno Ormeno) (2:27)
  11. Nicomedes Santa Cruz: No Me Cumben (Nicomedes Santa cruz) (2:28)
  12. Chabuca Granda: Una Larga Noche (Chabuca Granda) (3:37)
  13. Peru Negro: Lando (traditional-P.D.) (3:36)
  14. David Byrne: Maria Lando (words by Cesar Calvo, music by Chabuca Granda) (3:52)
  15. Vincente Vasquez D.: Zapateo en Menor (Vincente Vasquez D.)

The Players

Compiled by David Byrne and Yale Evelev. Project coordination by Kat Egan.

The Pictures

Photos by Ricardo Salcedo. Design by Chip Kidd.

The Plastic

Released on compact disc on May 30, 1995 in the US (Luaka Bop/Warner Bros., 45878-2). Reached #15 on the US Top World Music charts.

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