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Thanks to great bands and artists like Peru Negro, Lucila Campos, Eva Ayllon and Susana Baca, Afro-Peruvian music is alive and well. Of course, some visionary record labels also had a hand in taking the music to an international level. The latest of these is Minneapolis-based Secret Stash Records, whose founders Eric Foss and Cory Wong recently traveled to Peru to get close to the sound and get it down on disc. They succeeded in rounding up a multigenerational ensemble of players and singers and recording an album of pure Afro-Peruvian roots music centered around acoustic guitars, standup bass, vocals and cajon (that wooden box drum that gives the music its drive).

Having no studio at their disposal, they recorded on the fly anywhere they could. The results are 17 mostly short but altogether stunning pieces that epitomize the intimacy and rhythmic complexity of Afro-Peruvian music built on a foundation of African, Spanish and indigenous elements dating from the beginning of the slavery era in the mid-16th century. Mostly instrumentals dotted with some full-blooded vocal moments, the selections on Peña are sparse excursions into unspoiled tradition. Stylishly packaged in a plain wooden case (mind the contents don’t fall out when you open it), the CD is accompanied by succinct and informative liner notes and a DVD depicting the young Americans’ Lima excursion as they sample local culture, cuisine and music in the process of completing this gem of a project. Listen to this CD/DVD set to see and hear for yourself how well it all turned out. - Tom Orr

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