• Susana Baca

I’m sure I’m not the only one who was introduced to Afro-Peruvian music when Luaka Bop Records released the compilation Afro-Peruvian Classics: the Soul of Black Peru in 1995. The label signed singer Susana Baca, who, for many in the U.S., became the face of Afro-Peruvian music, if only because she was the only person whose recordings you could easily find. Though veteran group Peru Negro was also releasing albums and occasionally touring, they didn’t have a single recognizable face like Baca—or an expert marketing campaign behind them.

Over the years I’ve realized that there’s more to the tradition than Baca—who, despite her success abroad, isn’t a major star in her homeland. In fact, singer Eva Ayllon, who also had a track on that Luaka Bop comp, is much more popular. In the past few years she’s finally had some recordings released in the U.S., including the recent Kimba Fá (Times Square). She’s more of a pure entertainer than Baca, who infuses all her work with a strong sense of ethnomusicological mission, and her stylistic range is much broader—she’s more concerned in general with musical criollismo.