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Los Hermanos Ballumbrosio
Homenaje a El Carmen
Mis Ancestros

Both from Buh Records
Review by Bruce Miller

Lima based Buh records has been feverishly bringing attention to experimental South American artists over the last few years; however, they’ve also dropped recordings of contemporary, roots-based Peruvian sounds not always well known outside the country’s borders. These releases have served to celebrate the massive, geographically complex South American country’s rich cultural diversity. With its latest releases from Los Hermanos Ballumbrosio and Perkutao, the label digs deep into coastal Afro-Peruvian vocal and percussion based ensembles, both of whom demonstrate Peru’s Afro roots run as deep as Colombia’s or Brazil’s.


Based 222 km south of Lima in El Carmen, a city that boasts Peru’s largest Black population, Los Hermanos Ballumbrosio deliver a debut record that shows off the long Ballumbrosio family tradition. In some ways Homenaje a el Carmen is an homage to Don Amador Ballumbrosio Mosquera, a violinist and zapateo (tap dance) master who is also the father of 4 members of Los Hermanos Ballumbrosio. “Hatajo de Negritas” shows off a spiky, stuttering fiddle line against percussion clangs and zapateo foot work, with a chorus of singers appearing from time to time as well. The track conjures Mosquera’s spirit, though most of the record sounds nothing like this performance. Instead, it’s the record’s percussion and call and response vocals that make up the bulk of the collection and display the musical family’s African roots. Bongos, bells, congas, and quijadas (a mule, horse, or donkey jawbone as percussion) supply both rhythm and melody, as singers respond solo and as a chorus. This music is a forever celebration of liberation.

Lima-based Perkutao, a quartet that fuses Afro-Cuban elements into a percussion-driven urban music that has existed in one form or another for 200 years on Lima’s streets, formed 17 years ago, though Mis Ancestros is their Buh debut. Directed by percussionist and zapateador Percy Chinchilla, the group hails from the same general area of Lima, where Jarana, a largely improvised vocal and percussion based music, once thrived. Acrobatic on stage, and directly connected to musicians who introduced certain Cuban hand drums into Afro-Lima’s musical mix, Perkutao draws a direct connection to Afro—spirituality with roots in what is now coastal Benin.


Because they blend Afro-Cuban and contemporary elements into their sound, they use zapateo, quijadas, cajon (a wooden box drum), congas, guitar, and vocals to create music radically different from Los Hermanos, though no less connected to its roots. Vocals are often de-emphasized to make way for breathtaking dance moves. So, long, taunt passages on certain tunes open up room for individual movement. (A video from Peru’s 2018 Casino Rueda fest gives one solid example of their moves.) Mis Ancestros has tremendous variety, from the subtle, groove driven “Africana” to “Trucutum Kita Pa’s” Jarana-influenced handclaps, knee slaps, and acoustic guitar punctuations.

While there are numerous examples of Afro-Peru’s musical past, as well as its fused present, Buh has once again brought us two reminders of the country’s unadorned, contemporary, always-innovative Black roots.

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