1. "Detras de la Puerta" is a cumbia written by the great Columbian singer/songwriter, Ivan Benavides (Bloque, Sidestepper, Carlos Vives) with lyrics that actually say something interesting. It is a song that could be about the experience of an immigrant traveling to the North, to the U.S. or maybe a song about a man wanting to get to know a woman a little better. The cumbia is a rhythm that has spread from Colombia to all of Latin America and especially in Peru. This song combines our Peruvian rhythms with the cumbia in an interesting mix.
2. "Bendicime" was written by Javier Lazo, a young Peruvian singer-songwriter who I asked to write this song based on the traditional Afro-Peruvian songs to the Baby Jesus. These songs were sung by Black Peruvians in processions around Christmas time and provided a way to keep the rhythms and songs alive through Catholic traditions. People danced and played drums going from one nativity altar to another where the owners gave them food and drinks.
3. "Yana Runa" means Black Man in Quechua, the language of many indigenous Peruvians. In the North near the Ecuadorian border there are many communities where indigenous and Black Peruvians lived side by side and also intermixed their cultures and spirituality. On the Northern Coast, Black Peruvians worked the plantations and were joined by the indigenous Peruvians who came down from the mountains fleeing droughts and famine in different moments. This song honors this tradition and the Afro-Indian tradition that is so common throughout Latin America.
4. "Plena y Bomba" I wanted to show these Puerto Rican rhythms that I have loved and danced to for many years. I recorded "Las Caras Lindas" by Tite Curet Alonso, the great Puerto Rican composer on my first record, a Peruvian tribute to Ismael Rivera, who sang this song. On this CD I wanted to do a Bomba and a Plena and I had Javier Lazo add some lyrics to these songs to give it a Peruvian flavor, the story of the alleyways or backstreets where many Afro-Peruvian traditions blossomed, the music and dance that came out of the marginal neighborhoods of Lima where so many talented musicians began their careers. I grew up on one of those streets where families shared cultures and experiences, people who came down from the mountains, fleeing drought and hunger and people who worked in the houses of the rich, like my parents did. The alleyways like "El Buque" produced people like my aunt who ground herbs in her mortar who sang us the songs from her childhood, the ones that groups like Peru Negro later reinterpreted.
This also includes the beautiful poetry of Rene Perez (Calle 13), who captured the spirit of the song. The lyrics refer to "I feel these rhythms are so close to our own and I would like to see how the people of Chincha and Cañete, our Afro-Peruvian communities, respond to this rhythm."
5. "Reina de Africa" Is a tribute to the women of African descent in the Americas, these hard working queens, who have struggled and danced and sang despite the obstacles they encountered. This song weaves the flamenco, tango and panalivio rhythms, evoking the image of the African goddess who survives in our continent.
6. "Baho Kende y Palo Mayimbe" When I first heard Palo Mayimbe, I wanted to know more about it and what it meant. It struck me as something that resonated in my soul and when I visited Cuba and saw Merceditas Valdes sing songs to the orishas with 35 drummers, playing as one, I could understand the power of this music. For me, Celia Cruz was singing directly to me, it made me feel that Cuban music was a part of me, a shared culture that is a part of America. Palo Mayimbe is a way of speaking of the spiritual world of the African descendents in America.
7. "Coco y Forro" Coco y Forro are rhythms from the Northeast of Brazil, Coco is a old rhythm not well known outside of Brazil, the song features Sergio Valdeos who played guitar in my band and brings in a Peruvian Brazilian fusion. The lyrics are typical of the double meaning of Latin American poetry. It features Wagner Profeta, on percussion, ex member of the group Ile Aiye from Salvador, Bahia, innovators in Afro Brazilian percussion.
8. "Taki Ti Taki" This is a song from Venezuela, one of the many complex rhythms played by the drummers of Guatuire. Venezuela has a variety of rhythms and musical forms that are very sophisticated. Many people in Europe say the rhythms of Venezuela are similar to those of Peru and Columbia, but I think they are very different. These are songs from the drummers that play to San Juan in June and sing songs in tribute for hours. We share similar roots in Spain and Africa but there are very different nuances that come out. It is a song that spoke to me, "Taki Ti Taki" refers to the rhythm and the adoration of San Juan and we feel it is close to our own culture and a part of the culture of the Americas.
9. "Que Bonito Tu Vestido" is an homage to Amparo Ochoa, one of Mexico's great voices who introduced me to the Son Jarocho style of Veracruz. The lyrics are a satirical reference to female vanity, " you have a pretty dress, but nothing inside." This is a part of the sharp humor that characterizes Mexican culture. The rhythms combine the Mexican Son Huapango with the Peruvian Tondero rhythm of Northern Peru, which are both variants of the Waltz rhythm and the song ends in the Son Jarocho rhythm of Veracruz, accompanied by Martha Gonzalez and Quetzal Flores.
10. "Pokey Way" is a tribute to New Orleans, where I spent time on a fellowship. I saw the families in the park on Sundays, cooking, singing and dancing and it brought back memories of my own experience in Chorrillos the way the culture is passed on through the generations. I was there during the Katrina hurricane and I left hours before the storm hit and wasn't able to return until much later. I felt New Orleans was close to my heart and helped me understand the diversity of cultures in the United States.
11. "Canta Susana" is a song written by Victor Merino, and is sung by the famous Peruvian salsa singer, Carlos Mosquera. The song is dedicated to me, and the lyrics say that I hold the moon in my hands. Victor composed this piece after he saw me perform, and it's his perception of me and how he thinks others see me when I perform.