CMA Stories

6 Fun Facts about Afro-Peruvian Music

Join us on Sunday, October 7, for a celebration of Peruvian culture. CMA is partnering with Pachamama Peruvian Arts to present workshops inspired by traditional and contemporary arts practices of Peru and interactive performances of the Marinera Norteña, a graceful couple’s dance from the coasts of Northern Peru, at 12:30 pm and 2:00 pm.

Groove to your beat! Our Sound Booth workshop for the day is inspired by Afro-Peruvian music, a distinct sound from the Southern Peruvian coast. We are honored to have guest Teaching Artist Juan Carlos Polo teaching us all about the percussion instruments and techniques unique to this genre.

To get us ready for our Peruvian Cultural Festival, here are 6 fun facts about Afro-Peruvian music:

  1. Afro-Peruvian music combines styles brought to Peru by enslaved West African people during the Spanish colony in the nineteenth century. You can hear the influence from Africa in the rich dance and drumming tradition and from Spain in the use of Spanish classical guitar.
  2. A cajón is a special kind of drum played on the front side by slapping with your hands or fingers, or sometimes, a brush. “Cajón” means crate in Spanish, because the instrument looks like a large wooden box.
  3. A cajita is traditionally made from a little box used to collect donations during church. Imagine using a mallet to tap the side of the box with one hand while the other opens and closes the cover on top to making a clapping sound!
  4. Maybe you’ve seen or played a cowbell before. Did you know the instrument got its name because ranchers would use the bells to heard their cows? It’s true! Each rancher would have a different sounding bell to tell his animals apart from the others.
  5. A quijada is a big jawbone from a donkey that has been turned into an instrument! The player hits the jawbone with a stick, creating a unique buzzing sound from the teeth rattling against the bone.
  6. Amador Ballumbrosio is known as the “godfather of Afro-Peruvian music.” He refused to work as a laborer as a young man, committing his life instead to making music with his hands and feet! The Ballumbrosio family remains active in the Afro-Peruvian music community to this day.

Guest Teaching Artist Juan Carlos Polo is a drummer, composer and educator originally from Lima, Peru, currently living in New York City. As a teacher, Polo is passionate about teaching children and communicating with music. Classically trained, he blends a number of influences in his playing including those of his native Peru. Since his arrival to the United States in 2016, Juan Carlos has worked with such notable musicians as the multiple Grammy Award winner, pianist and composer Arturo O’Farrill, tenor saxophonist Daniel Blake, Grammy Award nominee and major Latin Jazz pianist Edsel Gomez, and Willie Colon’s tenor saxophonist Ivan Renta. He has recorded on more than fifteen albums with some of the most respected Peruvian, Brazilian and American artists of various styles and is an active performer in the NYC jazz scene. Learn more at

This program is supported, in part, by the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts with support of Governor Andrew Cuomo, and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. CIVICKIDS is sponsored by Google.

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