Peru Negro

Jolgorio

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In existence since 1969, Peru Negro are possibly the longest-standing exponents of Afro-Peruvian folkloric culture. Essentially made for live performance, to just hear them on CD is to miss the dance aspect of their act -- a vital part. However, the music is strong enough to stand on its own, such as the percussive, polyrhythmic "Carnaval Negro," or the lyrical tondero "De España," with its flamenco overtones mixed with a decidedly African sensibility. The traditional carnival dance, "Son de los Diablos" is wonderfully sprightly, the massed backing vocals giving an almost choral aspect to the sound, with guitar and bass -- the only non-percussive instruments -- carrying a melody that's essentially a simple riff in a brilliant piece of arranging. But while Peru Negro might be a folkloric ensemble, it's also worth remembering that they're professional entertainers, well trained, and used to appearing in stage and in the studio. That gives a gloss to the disc that wouldn't happen if they were, say, from a coastal village. So the musical quotient is increased (and most of the songs are self-composed, based in the tradition rather than taken directly from it), but there's nothing wrong with that. It helps make this a complex, frequently beautiful disc (just listen to the many layers that make up "Alcatraz," for example). Susana Baca might be the brand leader in Afro-Peruvian music, but she's far from being the only exponent. Peru Negro deserve the exposure and praise they've received -- and will continue to get, on the basis of this.

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