There are a number of striking factors about this set of field recordings. The first is the absence of pan pipes, so long associated with Andean music. The lilting melodies are there, but generally played on other instruments. Then there's the prevalence of violin, which presumably arrived with the Spanish, as brass instruments did with other peoples; the brass bands tend to be heard on the huaynos and marineras, but here are heard on "Negra," a traditional dance of a black slave. Split into three sections -- ceremonial music, dances, and music for popular theater -- there's a stunningly wide range of music, with older instruments predominating, as might be imagined, in the ceremonial music, where a cow horn and flute are as common as vocals; the ensembles come more for dances and theater music. The fact that these recordings were made during the '90s serves as a reminder that the traditions remain strong in rural Peru, a country wracked by war and civil unrest, but how long can they stand as progress casts its net wider and wider? To be fair, the prime audience for this is ethnomusicological -- not too many casual listeners will sit through 50 minutes of pieces that are often just snippets -- and the notes, though thorough, do tend to assume a certain level of knowledge. But it stands as an education and a realization that the old world hasn't quite slipped away -- yet.
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AllMusic Review by Chris Nickson