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
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.