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Peru Music - Cusco Music, Andean Music, Cumbia Music

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How would you define Peru music? Peruvian music, like music from other countries, is a mixed bag; some old, some new.

Actually, like coffee, much of Peruvian music combines various flavors and has been recognized as a special blend between music from ancient as well as many newer cultures, of course with a strong influence from the Spanish.

While various styles have arisen throughout the country, let's look at just the most popular types of music in Peru.

On this page:

  • Cumbia (also known as Chicha)

  • Criolla music (or Creole)

  • Afro-Peruvian, and

  • Huayño (also spelled Wayno)

Cumbia of Peru - Peru Music

Originally almost a folk music of Colombia, cumbia has gained popularity throughout the world. Taking the sound rhythms and sounds of popular cumbia, Peru music now has its own style of cumbia with many cumbia bands and recordings available.

Cumbia seems to have gained more popularity in northern Peru, with Criolla and Afro Peruvian music being more popular in central Peru and huayño being more popular in the Andean region.

Cumbia in Peru was created using styles from Andean music and rock, along with traditional Cumbia from other countries in Latin America.

Peru Music - Chicha

Peruvian Cumbia - Chicha

Roots of Chicha: Psychedelic Cumbias From Peru

A special aspect of this Peruvian music is its blend of traditional and modern rhythms, as well as its messages of hardships and struggles.

The melody is created using electric guitars and electronic percussion instruments.

Since this is the Latino version of "crying in your beer" music, it is also called Chicha Cumbia, referring to the cheap corn beer found in the numerous dark drink-and-desintegrate djves found in every hamlet in Peru.

On the other hand, good cumbia is really finely-tuned and great listening - and dancing - music.

Criolla Music - Peru Music

In contrast, Criolla (pronounced cree-o-ya or cree-ole-ya) music was created with a strong influence from the Spanish, although Peru criolla music also incorporates some influences from Andean and African styles (afro-peruvian).

Peru Music

Eva Ayllon - Leyenda Peruana
Criolla Music of Peru

La Marinera - Peru Music

While criolla music includes quite a few genres, we can say that the most popular genre is the marinera, a romantic style that has become the national dance of the country.

Here is a really nice video of a couple dancing the Marinera Norteña, or Northen Style Marinera:

An interesting fact about Criolla music, including the Marinera, is that it is celebrated on a specific day: October 31.

That, of course, doesn't mean the dancing doesn't happen the rest of the year, it's just that special date that is dedicated to the Criolla music.

Afro-Peruvian - Peru Music

Although Criolla music is similar to Afro Peruvian music, the latter has origins tracing back to African slaves in Peru. Thus, Afro-Peruvian music is based on more of an African influence than Criolla music.

Afro-Peruvian Music

Peru music afro-peruana Susana Baca
Susana Baca

Susana Esther Baca de la Colina (born Chorrillos, Lima Province, Peru, 1944) is a prominent Peruvian singer-songwriter; two-times Latin Grammy Award winner. She has been a key figure in the revival of Afro-Peruvian music.

In July 2011 she was named Peru's Minister of Culture in the Ollanta Humala government, becoming the second afro-peruvian cabinet minister in the history of independent Peru.

This music is often appreciated for its Spanish and African style rhythms and messages concerning slavery in the country.


Criolla and Afro-Peruvian music are created using guitars and drums, such as the cajon.

However, Afro-Peruvian music also uses sound created from the teeth of an animal jawbone.

Huayño - Andean Music of Peru

Andean Music

Andean music from Peru is, to most people, Peruvian flute music. Indeed, pan flutes are an integral part of nearly all Andean music. The pan pipe known as the zampoña has two rows of pipes, while the antara has one row.

Huayño Music

Differing from Peruvian cumbia and musica criolla, huayño (pronounced wine-yo) music is largely based on Andean music traditions and is generally sung in the Quechua language.

Peru Music -  Huayno

El Condor Pasa

Simon & Garfunkel's hit record of 1970 brought the essence of Peru huayno music into the world popular music scene -
"Bridge Over Troubled Water"

(see Huayño versions of El Condor Pasa...)

Huayño has been expressed in its richest form throughout Andean cities such as Cusco.  A visitor to Cusco will certainly want to include Cusco music in his/her itinerary, and there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy this Andean music.

From an early age, "Cusqueño" learn to love Huayño songs and are taught to dance Huayño with enthusiasm.

At nearly every social gathering, you can expect to hear Huayño and, within a short time, everyone will be dancing to the songs. The songs are danced in pairs, with small hops and stomps characterizing the dance.

The original Huayño songs are in the Quechua language, with more recent songs being written in Spanish.

A special feature of Huayño is the way people have used this art as a means of expressing themselves. Many of the lyrics speak of the sadness felt by the Andean people who led difficult lives.

Peruvian Flute Music

To this day, the sweet melody of Peruvian flute music (quena flutes), harps, and violins, along with the raw emotional lyrics still bring tears to the eyes of elder Peruvians.

Contributed by Inside-Peru's Associate Writer Michelle Dinos

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