Ryan Chartrand

Perú Negro mixes the rhythms of Africa and flavor of Latin America to create a unique cultural performance incorporating both music and dance.

This 20-member group works to show the complicated history of Africans in Peru through its performances and is bring its unique musical style to Cal Poly on Sunday.

Rony Campos, Perú Negro’s artistic director and son of the group’s late founder, Ronaldo Campos, said in an e-mail interview, “Until the 1970s, there was minimal research done on the culture and life of Afro Peruvians. Perú Negro does its part on the effort to preserve this culture by concentrating on the elements of music and dance.” (The group’s producer, Juan Morillo, translated the interview.)

“Zamba Malató,” Perú Negro’s 2008 release, is the highly anticipated follow-up album to its 2004 Grammy-nominated album “Jolgorio.”

The group formed in 1969 when Ronaldo Campos was asked to put together a group that could play Afro-Peruvian music for an event at a cultural center, so he gathered family and friends to create Perú Negro.

When asked how the group would describe its music, Rony responded, “The music reflects the passing of traditions; it is rich from the melodic and rhythmic perspectives.” He also said “elements of social protest” can be found in the group’s Spanish lyrics.

Perú Negro, known for its lively sounds and rhythmic dances, incorporates African dance styles into its performances.

“In Afro-Peruvian culture, music and dance live in a harmonious marriage; these two are not disjointed. Perú Negro is one of those groups that proves that historically music and dance must have evolved together,” Campos explained.

To include more historical aspects into its performances, Perú Negro’s members wear costumes that “mirror originals worn by black Peruvians during the late colonial and early republic periods,” Campos said.

The Peruvian government even named Perú Negro “Cultural Ambassadors of Black Peru” in 2001.

“There is certainly a sense of pride, and when we travel around the world, we also expect to motivate our audiences enough so that they want to experience more of Peru,” Campos said in response to receiving the title.

To continue the exploration of Peru’s African culture and history, Perú Negro has formed a school in Lima, Peru that trains young dancers and musicians to become the next generation of Perú Negro. The junior troupe is called Perú Negrito (Little Black Peru).

“A few years after the first generation of dancers left the group, they started getting married and having families and they asked Ronaldo to teach kids what they learned with the group,” Campos explained. “Ronaldo picked on the idea of using these lessons to start motivating a new generation of dancers and musicians.”

Nearing the end of Perú Negro’s 45-city tour, the group still continues to bring the intensity it is known for to each performance.

“Traveling can be bothersome and tiring, but once we are on stage we are transformed into performers who enjoy giving 100 percent to their audience,” Campos said.

Perú Negro will perform at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $28 and $34 with discount prices available. Eight-dollar student rush tickets will also be available an hour before the show to those with valid student ID cards.

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