Taken from their homeland and brought in chains to work in Andes mines, African slaves on the Peruvian coast were deprived of everything, both culturally and geographically.
However, music is an eternal thing that travels across the oceans and follows people wherever they go. So, Africans managed to preserve the sounds of their homeland, and the black rhythm soon began to resonate through the mountains.
Many years had passed, and it seemed like African slaves’ history fell into oblivion when one man from the streets of Lima managed to revive the rich black culture and Criolla music. That man was Ronaldo Campos de la Colina, founder of one of the biggest Afro-Peruvian bands ever — Peru Negro.
Peru Negro’s Origin
In 1969, Campos founded the band in the capital of Peru, Lima, with 12 other members of his family. Essentially, they performed a type of music known as Música Criolla or Canción Criolla, a genre that is recognizable for Peru and represents a blend of a local sound, Spanish and African rhythms.
He was a frontman of Peru Negra until his death in 2001 when his son Rony Campos took over the leadership.
The creativity of the Peruvian band remained within the family; however, the ensemble was growing and their music conquered the crowd in many foreign countries.
Cultural Ambassadors of Black Peru
Peru Negro was often called the ambassador of the Black Peruvian community. This band has always been able to flawlessly navigate between the vibrant Latin American cultural heritage and African folklore, uniting their history and the soil on which they were born through their music.
As Criolla started to seduce the audience from the North, along with Lundu rhythms from Brazil, Peru Negro’s mariners managed to get the world’s attention. After releasing the album Sangre de un Don in 2002, the band had its first US tour.
The great success of the Afro-Peruvian orchestra was also marked by a double Grammy nomination in 2005, after releasing their second album Jolgorio. The band was nominated in two separate categories: Latin Traditional Music and Best World Music.
Three years later, Peru Negro got another nomination for album Zamba Malato. After releasing the anniversary album Eva Ayllon & Peru Negro — 40 Years of Afro Peruvian Classics, in collaboration with one of the most famous Peruvian singers ever, the band was once again on the Grammy nominations list, this time for Best Folk Album in 2010.
Half-Century of Peru Negro
Ronaldo Campos revived African Musical Heritage on the Pacific coast by starting an orchestra that will always be a part of the annals of music.
Until 2010, the band released five studio albums and 17 compilations, made countless live appearances and collaborated with the most significant artists across Latin America.
They will be remembered by albums:
- Gran Premio Del Festival Hispanoamericano De La Danza Y La Canción (1973)
- Son De Los Diablos (1974)
- Sangre De Un Don: Herencia Afro Peruana (2000)
- Jolgorio (2004)
- Eva Ayllón & Perú Negro — 40 Years Of Afro Peruvian Classics (2010)
As Criolla transcended the boundaries of a music genre, Peru Negro rose to prominence, becoming much more than a simple band. It was a family or, even better, strong community that brought people together.
After Ronaldo Campo’s death, his troupe continued to make music, having live performances with over 30 members on stage and organizing a school for the youngest members that was called Perú Negrito.
They have remained a part of Black Pacific cultural life as one of the most influencing music bands ever.