The Official Speil!
Here’s the brief story of Peña:
Thanks to the fast moving world of Twitter, Facebook, and blogs, it’s only a few clicks away to share and listen to music from around the world, even across thousands of miles for a whole new audience to enjoy. Every once in a while an incredible form of music may not make it past the nation’s border in which it was created. Such is the case with Afro-Peruvian music. Even with the rich musical history of Peru, only a handful of Afro-Peruvian music has ever been recorded and released outside of the country. Last spring, Minneapolis-based label, Secret Stash Records set out to change that.
In April of 2010, Cory Wong and Eric Foss of Secret Stash Records traveled to Lima, Peru with a translator and assembled Peña, an Afro-Peruvian ensemble featuring a handful of the best musicians within the genre. The group was a revolving door of sorts that included over a dozen players ranging in age from 24 to 65. In seven days they recorded over 50 tracks. With no access to a conventional recording studio they improvised by tracking in classrooms, living rooms, balconies, offices, and even on the stoop of a hostel. The sessions were fast, free spirited, and generally consisted of one or two takes per track. The result is an authentic display of one of the world’s most unique, unexplored and underrated musical styles.
For most people, the question still remains, “what is Afro-Peruvian music?” In the mid 1500s Spanish conquistadors brought African slaves with them to Peru. One of the many restrictions placed on the slaves was that they were not allowed to own or play instruments. In time they began using fruit boxes and dresser drawers as drums. This innovation became formally known as the cajón (large box) and it was the central component in fusing African rhythms with Spanish music. After slavery was abolished in Peru (1856), Afro-Peruvian culture slowly withered away. By the mid 1900s the music (along with other parts of the culture) had almost completely vanished. In the 1960s, a small handful of black Peruvians in Chincha (3 hours south of Lima) started a revival of sorts. It quickly grew and before long the people of Peru were rediscovering this lost music. Today Lima is the center of Afro-Peruvian music, but people of all colors living in coastal Peru celebrate this music and culture.
“It was amazing how everyone we met down there was so excited to help us. They have a sense of pride about their culture that you don’t really see up here. They were just thrilled to share it with outsiders,” said Cory Wong, producer, engineer, and guitarist of Peña. When they arrived in Lima, Wong and Foss had no appointments and only one solid contact. They quickly went to work networking with the area’s most connected figures in Afro-Peruvian music. Within four days they had found the players and organized sessions. All of the musicians were enthusiast about their involvement and willing to record just about anywhere, any time.
“We were very fortunate to experience a real connection with the people who are keeping this music alive today. Because we didn’t have a studio to work out of, we tracked in the places where they live, work, and play. I feel that really shines through in the recordings. This album would not be what it is if it were done in a recording studio,” said executive produer, Eric Foss. The spirit and conditions of the sessions, as well as some great background information and Afro-Peruvian history is captured in the DVD documentary that is included with the Peña CD which will be in stores, and online 10/12/10. It will also be available for digital download through all of the major services.
“El Mayoral” (FREE DOWNLOAD – HERE)