Eva Ayllon, one of Peru’s best known singers, is set to perform at the Rialto Center for the Arts on Friday, May 25.

Encouraged as a child by her maternal grandmother, Ayllon learned the music of coastal Peru, musica criolla, and of her Afro-Peruvian community. The music of the Afro-Peruvian community is unique in that it developed in the absence of traditional instruments. Enslaved Africans were banned from chanting or playing drums so they created instruments out of everyday objects like wooden boxes and the jawbones of animals. Ayllon is at the heart of the revival of that musical tradition.

Hailed by the Los Angeles Times as “the Tina Turner of Peru,” the Grammy-nominated Allyon brings traditional music into a vibrant mix with modern forms such as jazz.

Could you talk a little about your grandmother who influenced you to become a singer? What was she like and what did you learn from her?
My grandmother was not a musician, but an aficionado of great music. Her work and household chores were permanently accompanied by music and since I was left at her care, I absorbed everything she exposed me to, including Cuban music and Argentinean Tango, besides our native genres. When I started to show talent early in my teens, she became the foundation of support for me to pursue music as a profession.

Can you tell us about what makes Afro-Peruvian music special. Why is music so important to Afro-Peruvian culture?
Music became the voice of the dispossessed, colonial laws banned drumming and African chanting, yet in the little privacy afforded to slave quarters a new music was born as an expression of joy amidst misery. I have never stepped in an Afro Peruvian household where music is not at the center of every move of the family. The special element of Afro Peruvian music its in the interpretation, in the cadence of the expressed sensuality, in the syncopation. Although a significant part of Afro Peruvian music is performed in a 6/8 metric, it’s quite unique in comparison to other Latino counterparts.

What can people expect from your performance in Atlanta? What kind of musicians will you be working with? What songs will you perform?
Audiences should know that I leave a significant part of my life on every stage I visit with my band. Gigio Parodi, master Cajon player, has been with me for over 30 years, Moises Lama on the piano is one the most versatile players currently working in Peru. Eddy Sanchez is young master of the guitar and I am also this time on tour with my son Carlos on percussion. Julio Zavala, another marvelous growing talent, and my eternal friend, confidant and vocal coach July Pumarada are on background vocals.

Franklin Abbott is an Atlanta psychotherapist, writer and musician. 

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