Peruvian music has evolved throughout history. From the beginnings of civilization in the country (circa 5000 BC), to the Tahuantinsuyo Empire and the colonization of the country, music has been shaped by different elements, such as the geography that accompanied societies and the different waves of migration that the country has experienced.
The types of music that is mostly thought to represent the different genres of ‘Peruvian music’ fall into two big subcategories of música andina (Andean music) and canción criolla (Creole music).
Now a day’s Andean music represent a hybrid of the original, indigenous Andean music, the one that was played during the times of the Incan empire, and Spanish music. This is because there is no town or community in the Andes that did not save itself from the struggles of Spanish colonialism.
The most typical instruments of Andean music are wind instruments, that were created by civilizations prior the colonies, and string instruments, such as the guitar and violin, which were introduced during the colonial times.
Although Andean music has had strong Western influence throughout the past centuries and there is not a single pure non-blended song in the subcontinent, it is important to emphasize the fact that the original Andean instruments, such as the zampoñas and quenas, are still being used in every single song made. In comparison to other countries in the continent, or the colonized world, the Andes was able to carry on with this tradition for centuries.
The zampoñas and quenas, for instance, have been in used ever since Caral, the very first civilization in the Americas, was founded (circa 5000). These instruments survived a series of wars, empires and conquests, from the Moche culture – that took over Caral – to the Incan Empire (Tahuantinsuyo) that expanded to six countries of the subcontinent, to the Spanish colonization and empire. Moreover, these instruments survived the independence movements, the Republican and modern eras, thriving and flourishing through new waves of Western influences, such as rock and pop, whilst maintaining the millennial ancestries of the Andean people.
One of the most well-known song of this genre is El Condor Pasa
Canción criolla, in comparison to the Andean music, is the style that evolved and thrived in the coastal regions of the country. The genre combines traditional European rhythms, such as the waltz and the polka, with African rhythms and, sometimes, Peruvian Andean beats. This style thrived during the XIX century where Peru, and most importantly Lima, experienced a series of important societal changes.
The most important instrument in this genre is the cajón peruano, used by African slaves in Peru during the Spanish empire times and the very first three decades of the Peruvian Republic, until the abolition of slavery.
Important representatives of this genre are Susana Baca, composer of Maria Lando (2 times winner of the Latin Grammy), Eva Ayllón, composer of Que Viva el Perú Señores and Ritmo, color y Sabor (1 time winner of the Latin Grammy) and Arturo ‘el Zambo’ Cavero, composer of Contigo Peru and Peruana Bonita.
FUN FACT! Susana Baca and Calle 13 collaborated on Latinoamérica, a song that reached the 3rd place on the global Billboard ranking chart. FUN FACT! Contigo Perú is the song, right after the national anthem, that is used to represent Peru and the people of Peru in different types of events. It even appeared, in several occasions during the World Cup.