Peña Peña

It seems that Afro-[insert any Latin music genre] is guaranteed to turn heads amongst world music consumers. So when Eric Foss and label partner Cory Wong travelled to Lima to record an Afro-Peruvian album then packaged their finished product in a beautiful, mahogany-coloured wood box, it had all the earmarks of a clever sales gimmick. But scepticism dissipates as quickly as it takes to insert the CD and press play. One by one, gentle Peruvian vals, poetic landos and percussive-rich festejos parade through Peña's 17 recordings. Paloma Godoy's vintage vocals break your heart so that singer Sofia Rei Koutsovitis can fuse the pieces back together. And when guitarist Javier Choy's finger-plucked magic has its turn with your reconstructed organ, it's Hugo Alcazar's defibrillating rhythm that pulls you out of your stupor. The crown jewel of this record ― in fact, that of Afro-Peruvian music, per se ― is the wooden box drum called the Cajon (born out of the musical prohibition on slaves). The Intricate hand-tapping of Alcazar and other percussionists featured on Peña is what binds the songs together, just as it bound generations of Peruvians of African descent. (Secret Stash)