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Published: 2004/01/27
by Glenn Alexander

Jolgorio – Peru Negro

A Peruvian institution for 35 years, Peru Negro blends traditional Peruvian

music with the country's African-influenced beats and rhythms, thus creating

a hybrid sound heard nowhere else. Compellingly arranged and deftly

executed with style and soul, Peru Negro unleashes hundred's of years of

musical heritage. Monica Duenas carries most of the polyrhythmic songs

along through her incredibly powerful voice, staying in sync, yet somehow

above, the beautifully complex and endearing music underneath. Filled with

drums, drums, and more drums, along with bass, classical guitar, and other

percussive textures, the music on_Jolgorio_ manages to be both full and

elegantly sparse when needed.

The opener, "Como Cantan, Coma Bailan Los Negros," opens up almost like a

traditional folk song, but as the percussion comes, you realize it is

something else altogether. It is the African beats which bring it in to a

new realm. A flute is a constant in the song, adding flourishes of melody

in quite an artful fashion. On "De Espana," a lone solo guitar comes in

with a classical Spanish flavor, creating punchy little chords, until it

drops down into a rhythmic bass line along with subtle beats laid down by a

cajon, a percussive instrument played by Rony Campos, the album's producer.

The song drifts for a while, allowing the guitar to add flourishes of

complex lines and melodic nuances until Monica Duenas' voice comes in.

Most songs on this album have an elegance and beauty that could be born only

out of years and years steeped in tradition and practice. The songs are so

loose and organic it is often very easy to overlook just how astonishingly

complex the rhythms actually are. It is this effortless execution of these

beats that helps cover up their complexity with that organic, earthy feel.

"Alcatraz" is a good example of this. The classical guitar comes in with a

simple bass line. It plays for long enough for you to think that the song's

structure is set in stone, but as the percussion comes in, the songs

character is drastically altered, yet still grounded in work laid down in

the opening. Again, Monica's voice is at the center of the song's

character. It is simple and heartfelt, with great passion put into every

vocal nuance.

For anyone out there who is seeking out something new and wants to get their

hands on something which manages to break all barriers between complexity

and pure elegance, this is a record for you. Whether or not you are

familiar with Afro-Peruvian music or not, the ancient grooves and the

captivating soul of this music are enough to pull in almost anyone and keep

them listening. This is an album full of surprises.

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