If you hear similarities between the Afro-Peruvian music performed by New Jersey resident Eva Ayllon and the rhythms brought from Cuba by the late Celia Cruz and Tito Puente, you are on the right track. Peruvians have borrowed a lot from Africans taken to South America as slaves during the 17th Century, and many tunes from the country made their way to the Caribbean. For instance, Cruz had an enormous hit with "El Toro Mata," a composition by Peruvian-born Chabuca Granda that Ayllon also regularly performs during her live sets.
The 56-year-old Ayllon began singing early on — at age 14 she was already pursuing a professional career, and by the mid-Seventies she became lead singer of Los Kipus, a local vocal group that would give Ayllon her first big break in the business. At the dawn of the Eighties, she embarked on her much-acclaimed solo career. In her three decades as a performer, Ayllon has reached superstar status back home. When visiting her native country, she routinely plays to sold-out stadiums, but her work was not fully recognized in the States until 2004, when she released Leyenda Peruana and began her first major U.S. tour.
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Ayllon's voice is passionate and firm, not unlike a younger Mercedes Sosa. Her live show features a tight backing band and several dancers who help bring to life the lovely melodies of her homeland.