PERU: In a Nutshell

Peru:  A Land of Mystery and Exoticism

Map of Country


Additional Image 1   Additional Image 2


This webpage was created to give the reader an overview of the Republic of Peru , as well as and introduction to the music of Peru . I will first talk about the overall geography and climate of this country, then I will go into a brief history and political background, then I will discuss the distinctive features about the country, including major resources and products, and then I will talk about Incan folklore music, and have my own prognosis about the future of this particular style of music.



Can't think of anywhere to go on your next vacation? The Republic of Peru haseverything needed for the perfect scenic escape. Whether one chooses to walk along thecoastal strip of the Pacific, ski down the majestic slopes of the Andes Mountains , orsimply spend an evening relaxing and listening to the cool sounds of the charango, onecan always find something to do in this country filled with diversity and culture.


Location, Geography, and Climate of Peru

Two of my best friends are Peruvian, and they always tell me how beautiful the land is and how much they love it there. The Republic of Peru is situated on the Pacific Coast of South America. It sits amidst the republics of Columbia and Ecuador on its north side, Brazil and Bolivia on its east, Bolivia and Chilé on its south, and the Pacific Ocean on its west (Martin 1974). The capital of Peru is Lima , and with a population of 27,167,000, an arid coastal strip 10 to 100 miles wide supports much of the population because of widespread irrigation. The Andes Mountains covers 27% of the land area of Peru , and half the country is covered by jungles and rainforests of the Amazon (World Almanac and Book of Facts, 2004).

Peru is well known as a land of contrasts, with its “climatic and ecological variety” (Klarén 2000 c:2) ranging from the barren, lifeless deserts in the west, to the rainforests and jungles of the Amazon teeming with various wildlife, to the snowy peaks of the Andes mountains, to the windy coastal plains (Klarén 2000, CIA World Fact Book 2004).


Brief History of Peru

The Republic of Peru has had a vast history dating back about 20,000 years to the pre-Incan civilizations. (Karén 2000). The hallmark of Peruvian history came in between the time that Peruvian independence was declared from Spain in 1821, to the time when it returned to a democratic leadership in 1980, after being under military rule for about a dozen years ( CIA World Fact Book 2004). However, because of this, the Peruvian economy suffered greatly until the election of President Fujimori in 1990, which “saw a dramatic turnaround” (Karén 2000 c:289) in both the economy and the Peruvian military (Karén 2000). Although a major economic slump later in his career caused Fujimori to lose favor with the populace, he won reelection to a third term in the spring of 2000 ( CIA World Fact Book, 2004). However, this time the “socioeconomic crisis of the past decade and numorous scandals” (Karén 2000 c:289) resulted in Fujimori being forced to permanently give up his leadership in November of that same year. In the spring of 2001, Alejandro Toledo was then elected as the new head of government ( CIA World Fact Book, 2004) where he presently sits.


Distinctive Features of Peru

Westerners typically view Peru as a country “shrouded in mystery and the exotic; a mirror of their own dreams and desires”, a concept known as “orientalism” (Karén 2000 c:Preface xii). Peru is known for its legendary sites and people, such as El Dorado , a legendary center of wealth (Karén 2000, and famed conquistador, Fracisco Pizarro. Also legendary is the lost Incan city, Machu Pichu, (Karén 2000) built by Incan ruler Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui, which was “most likely a royal estate and religious retreat” ( ).

Perhaps the most well-known conquistador in history is Francisco Pizarro, whose many invasions of Incan territory have been widely documented in history books worldwide. This was a “defining event not only in the history of Andean South America, but of the world” (Karén 2000 c:31). This event marked the beginning of the “developing clash between Western and non-Western peoples; a theme that has been dominant in world history over the past four centuries” (Klarén 2000 c:31).


Origins of Huanyo Dance Music

Incan and Aztec folklore music is the native music of Peru , which is predominant in the Andean region. “Mistakenly called ‘Inca Music'” ( ) modern Andean music are “recreations of pre-Hispanic indigenous genres, local developments based on colonial European models, or recent configurations derived from the encounter with national and transnational urban music forms” (The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, v.2 1998 c:476). Documentation of the musical practices of the Incan period was first recorded by Spanish chroniclers of the 1500s and 1600s, such as Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas , one of the best known Spanish chroniclers of the time (Klaren 2000). Musical expressions and settings, musical instruments, and musical manisfestations were just some of the many practices recorded by chroniclers in books, drawings, and other various forms. Of these practices, musical instrumentation are perhaps the most documented of the pre-Hispanic times. Numerous references to them are in existence, and also documentations of their use in everyday life (The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, v.2 1998).

The national instrument of Peru is the “charango, which dominates Andean music ( ). In the Lake Titicaca region, where the Incans originated, the charango is used in courtship rituals, and until the 1960s, it was a symbol of the poor. It wasn't until after the revolution in 1959, that the charango became more widespread and popular among performers ( ).


Sample Song: La Fleur de la Canela
A link to the .mp3 can be found on the following page

Original Lyrics of Song and Translation

Interpretation of Song


Prognosis for this Musical Genre

Evidently, Andean folk music is very much integrated into the rich culture and history of Peru , and it is also still being performed today in certain regions for various ceremonies and fiestas. Due to the fact that is has been around so long and is thus so much a part of Peruvian culture, I feel that Peruvian music will remain a significant part of the culture for generations to come.



As one can see, Peru truly is a land of diversity and exoticism.  With an extensive history dating back about 20,000 years, this magnificent country has been through turmoil, triumph, and back, and the music reflects that history. Despite the hardships, native Peruvians reflect that through music and dance. It is through this, that one begin to see the people's passion for their country, and the love for their rich heritage.


Internet References Cited


Peer-Reviewed References Cited

    1999   Peru: Society and Nationhood in the Andes , by P.F. Klaren. Oxford University Press, New York and Oxford.

    1974   The Kingdom of the Sun: A Short History of PERU by Luis Martin , by L. Martin. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York.

    1998   Peru. In The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music: South America, Mexico, Central America, and the Carribbean , edited by D.A. Olsen and D.E. Sheehy, pp. 466-489. Garland Publishing, Inc., New York and London.

    2001   Peru: Traditional and popular music: Highland indeginous music. In The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians: Paliashvili to Pohle, edited by S. Sadie, pp. 469-472. Macmillan Publishers Limited, New York and London.

    1968   Peruvian “Folk Music,” 1500-1790: Literacy and Musical Sources for a Fresh Study. In Music in Aztec and Incan Territory , by R. Stevenson, pp. 293-334. University of California Press, Berkely and Los Angeles.

    2004   Peru. In The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2004, edited by L.P. Weisenfeld et al., World Almanac Education Group, Inc., New York.


Where to Buy This Music

Contact Jim Aimers | ©2004 Miami University