Elvis Arroyo and Rithziana Purca

Elvis Arroyo and Rithziana Purca. (Image via Americas Society video)

Music of the Americas: Quechua Voices from Peru

Peruvian guitarist and producer Marino Martínez selected a group of female singers who perform traditional music of the southern Peruvian Andes. 

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Marino Martínez has been researching and performing traditional Quechua music from southern Peru for decades. For this week's En Casa (At Home), he selected a multigenerational group of female singers who are keeping that musical tradition alive.

In addition to his work as a teacher, guitarist, composer, and promoter of the music and languages of the Andes, Martínez is currently working on a master's in anthropology in Lima. He has appeared in recital throughout the Americas and in Europe and recorded several albums of Peruvian traditional music. Martínez is the research director at Caminos del Inka, a project dedicated to the promotion of Latin American classical music, as well as the director of Yaku Taki, a documentation center dedicated to traditional Peruvian music. His book Manuel Acosta Ojeda, arte y sabiduría del criollismo was published by Escuela Nacional de Folklore José María Arguedas in 2018.

Marleny Cuba

Monday, April 5, 6 p.m.

Marleny Cuba Vargas was born in Vilcanchos, in Ayacucho. In 2000 she won the "Voces nuevas de Fajardo" competition and joined the band of Nelly Munguía. In 2018 she released her debut album, El inicio, which includes first recordings of several songs by distinguished songwriters and was well received by fans of traditional music in the region. She is currently working on a new release, which includes original songs such as "Galdys de Bronce" and "Mama Moni," dedicated to Peruvian women.

Together with harpist Máximo Galindo and Abel Vila on the waqrapuku, Cuba sent us "Pawsina." This piece is a toril, a typical genre from the countryside that is usually performed alongside the branding of cattle. The toril traditionally includes the waqrapuku, a wind instrument made from a bull's horn horn, alongside percussion and harp.

Rithziana Purca

Tuesday, April 6, 10 a.m.

Rithziana Purca was born in Cora Cora in southern Peru and started singing at a very early age. In 2017, she won the Festival de la Canción Ayacuchana, a yearly competition organized by the local government that promotes the vitality of traditional music and musicians. She moved to Lima to continue her musical education and has appeared in stages across Peru. In collaboration with Elvis Arroyo, Purca is currently preparing her debut album, dedicated to the music of Ayacucho and featuring music by Olger Chaparro and Pedro Álvarez Razo.

From Lima, Purca sent us her version of Álvarez Razo's "Flor de sanqui," recorded with Arroyo.

Sonia Ccahuana

Wednesday, April 7, 10 a.m.

Singer Sonia Ccahuana, born in Cusco, started singing Andean music (particularly from the southern Andes) at a very young age, inspired by her family's affinity for Quechua song. She started her musical career performing Catholic Quechua songs, a repertoire with a centuries-old tradition in the region. Ccahuana is also active as a voice teacher, actress, and voice actress in Quechua films. 

From Cusco, Ccahuana sent us her solo version of "Apu Jesucristo," a sacred hymn in Quechua which is sung in a variety of festivities in the southern Peruvian Andes. 

Consuelo Jerí and Marino Martínez

Thursday, April 8, 10 a.m.

Consuelo Jerí was born in Santiago de Paucaray in Ayacucho and started learning Quechua songs from her father, who sang in popular festivities. Forced to leave her hometown at age 10 to escape the political violence that engulfed Peru in the 1990s, she continued her studies in Puquio and Ica. Her debut album, Ukumanta Takiy (Inner song), released in 2010, features songs in Quechua and Spanish. Jerí released the live album Kuychi in 2012 and participated in the documentary film Sigo siendo, by Javier Corcuera, which is a musical journey through Peru. In 2015 she started her musical collaboration with guitarist Marino Martínez, and the duo released Mayu in 2017. Together, they have performed throughout Peru and Europe.

Jerí and Marino Martínez have worked together since 2016, and have traveled the world promoting Quechua, the Andean language spoken by millions from Colombia to Argentina. Their original songs seek to represent the poetry of the rural world, conveying love for nature and life. They are currently working on their second album, which will include traditional songs alongside original compositions.

From Lima, they sent us two songs, "Vidallay vida" and "Ripuy ripuy," whose lyrics say:

Vida de mi vida, qué suerte esta suerte 
como un vaso de cristal de una sola existencia.
A qué río caería, a qué barranco saltaría
para acabar con mi tristeza, para no llorar más.

Me andas diciendo que me vaya
apenas llegue el bus, me iré pues
Me vas diciendo ingratitudes y vanidades
oyendo malas noticias, pues sabré retirarme.
El arpa que me ha hecho gozar será mi cajón
el violín que he hecho sonar
el cigarrillo que he fumado será el incienso
y el trago, mi agua bendita. 

Carmen Ascarza

Friday, April 9, 10 a.m.

Carmen Ascarza was born in Ayacucho, she is a teacher and musician dedicated to the study and performance of the traditional music of her region. She is a member of the historic Dúo Hermanas Ascarza, with which she has been performing ayacuchana music for over 50 years.

From home in Ayacucho, Ascarza sent us "Qachwa de chushi," a traditional piece she collected which used to be sung by youth during the harvest and threshing of peas and wheat. She tells us, "It is a very emotional piece. The lyrics speak of solidarity and happiness in spite of adversity and were sung on moonlit nights and at dawn while working in the fields." She recorded this song in her album Hijo mio, released in 1993.


The MetLife Foundation Music of the Americas concert series is made possible by the generous support of Presenting Sponsor MetLife Foundation.

The Spring 2021 Music program is also supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.