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Música Criolla or Canción Criolla is a varied genre of Peruvian music that exhibits influences from African, European, and Andean music. The genre's name reflects the coastal culture of Peru, and the local evolution of the term criollo into a more socially inclusive element of the nation.
Afro-Peruvian music was first created by African slaves in Peru during the Colonial Period and beyond. The rhythms include Festejo, Landó, Socabon, Pregon, Zamacueca, and Alcatraz. Many of those were played with a mixture of Spanish and Indian instruments and used the Spanish coplas as lyrics. They were practiced only in private black gatherings until the 1950s, when efforts of some scholars studying the Peruvian community, such as Nicomedes Santa Cruz, Victoria Santa Cruz and Jose Durand, compiled songs and dances after struggling with racism and poor recognition. Interpreters such as Lucila Campos, Caitro Soto, Susana Baca, Eva Ayllon, and the Peru Negro dance company, among others, have brought these genres to the world's attention.
The most popular genre of música criolla in Perú is the marinera, often called the national dance of Perú. Other main genres are Peruvian vals and tondero, festejo, polka, zamacueca, coplas de amor fino, and landó. Peru's national Día de la Canción Criolla takes place on October 31.
Landó is often compared to blues music because of its minor scale and its rhythmic origin. Musically the Landó is slower than the Festejo. Victoria Santa Cruz (who directed the National School of Folklore in Peru), worked to develop this genre around 40 or 50 years ago. It is related to South American dances of courtship because of its sensual movements and the soft tempo. Composed in 12/8 time, it has become a popular choice for Peruvian songwriters. It has its origins in the Angolan londu, and is also related to the Brazilian lundu.
Festejo (from Spanish 'fiesta') is a festive form of music. It can be seen as a celebration of Perú's independence and the emancipation of slaves, or as an attempt to reinvent diaspora African music without reference to slavery. Composers of all races have contributed to the development of festejo repertoire. Its origins are in a competitive circle dance performed by men playing cajónes. Nowadays, people of all ages and races participate in a witty dance accompanying the festejo.
The Polca Criolla is similar to the vals in some respects, but is composed in 4/4 time and has a much faster rhythm. The style and lyrics are an expression of mischivious and joyous celebration of life. It is also called "polquita", a term of endearment. Like the vals, it is typical of the coast, using the same basic repertoire of instruments, interpreters, and songwriters. Some common examples are "La Pitita", "Callao", and "Tacna".
The vals criollo is a unique musical form characterized by 3/4 time, originating in the coast of Peru. The vals criollo is a variation of the European Waltz brought by Spaniards to Peru, played with Spanish instruments by criollos or mestizos of all races since the Peruvian Colonial Period. It was around the 30's when city neighborhoods or barrios started developing their own styles. It was not heavily promoted by the media until the 50's when several Peruvian groups and singers started touring heavily. Other singers, songwriters and ethnomusicologists were compiling old interpretations and began recording songs that were never recorded before. This type of music includes elaborate Spanish guitar work accompanied in recent years by cajón and castanets with lyrics that talk about love, social dilemmas and nostalgia. This form is known outside of Peru as vals peruano (Peruvian waltz). Popular vals artists include singers like Arturo "Zambo" Cavero, Jesús Vásquez, groups like Los Morochucos, Los Troveros Criollos, Los Embajadores Criollos, Fiesta Criolla and composers like Felipe Pinglo Alva, Chabuca Granda and Augusto Polo Campos.