Peruvian Cumbia: its history and how the popular musical rhythm emerged in the country

The History of Peru is not only marked by great deeds, but also by our great folk legacy. And if we focus on music, Peruvian cumbia is one great representative of our diversity and miscegenation. In the songs of this genre we hear the Coast, mountains and jungle, as well as the rowdy and endless mix of these traditional geographical regions of the country. It is not for pleasure that he is among the most danced and listened rhythms of the country, if it is not the most popular music genre. it says this and this .

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For more than 50 years, dozens of groups and artists cumbiamberos –or chicheros, as they are also known– They have made millions of Peruvians cry, scream and shake their bones with their songs and performances. Or not? And now that more and more events are being organized after the capacity restrictions due to the pandemic, it is worth remembering the ingredients that helped the emergence of this great tropical genus in the country.

Before further, One more pertinent clarification: There are authors who call ‘chicha’ to peruvian cumbia. For the purposes of this note, the term Peruvian cumbia will be used to refer to tropical music originating in our country. Also, when I refer to its variants from different geographical areas of the country, I will cite it as andean cumbia, jungle cumbia, coastal cumbia either northern cumbia, to cite examples. In addition, there are variants such as romantic cumbia either technocumbia. Fair enough. Let’s keep going.


Some scholars like mark 1968 as the starting point of the Peruvian cumbia (an aspect that I will develop in a later note), since in that year it appeared as a new rhythm. However, the genre has been cooked in Peru for a long time due to the influence of tropical sounds from other Latin American countries, in particular the Colombian cumbia. Yes, you can say that Cumbia arrived in Peru through the northern border.

to that two factors added: the success of commercial andean music in the 1950s and the migration to the coast, especially to the capital Lima. The fact is that the second half of the 20th century was a stage in which the Peruvian population not only went from being rural to urban, but also from being Andean to coastal.

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In “Andean and Tropical. Cumbia in the global city of the country” (2007), its author Raúl Renato Romero highlights that Colombian cumbia began to become popular in Peru in the sixtiesat a time when “the commercial huayno continued to gather crowds.”

“It was no surprise that in Peru cumbia quickly gained popular acceptance. After all, in the fifties, the urban population of Lima had enthusiastically received the Cuban rumba, the Dominican merengue and the mambo with Pérez Prado as the leader of these new rhythms.


What distinguished cumbia was that it had also been accepted in rural areas. In the peasant towns of the coast and the Andes, music bands began to perform cumbias as a dance genre in local festivities.

In the regional markets throughout Peru, mainly located in the capitals of the provinces, LPs of famous cumbia artists were sold and in this way it spread even more”, points out academic Romero in his book.

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Alberto Villar, in his text (2010), also highlights that mixture that occurs from fifty with the arrival of a “double invasion” in the capital:

“On the one hand, the hertzian radio waves flooded the atmosphere with tropical rhythms that invited love and desire: sones, mambos, boleros; and on the other, immense sandbanks, hills and unoccupied plains are giving way to new cities and populations of migrants in search of the dream of the capital […]”.


For Arturo Quispe Lázaro, there is nothing precise about the spatial origin of ‘chicha’. He indicates that some have related it more to the coast with the emergence of “Los Destellos”. However, when Enrique Delgado’s group began to play, around 1968, “Juaneco and his Combo”, originally from Pucallpa (Ucayali)had already been moving every last cell of the people of the musical circuit of the jungle east.

However, there are songs that have served as referents or temporary guides in the formation of the sound or style of ‘perucha’ cumbia. The recurrent example is “La chichera”which, according to the book “Chicha Peruana: music of the new migrants” (1995), by Wilfredo Hurtado S., It is the “theme from which the new musical rhythm is going to be called chicha”.

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“La chichera” was recorded by from . Then for . Both versions are in the ranking of the 60 most listened to songs in 1965, in positions 10 and 21, respectively, as recorded in the book “Música escondida. History of the musical rankings of Peru from 1948 to 2000″, by Walter Gonzales Tello.

Pedro Miguel and his maracaibos, considered one of the first to bring cumbia to Peru.
Pedro Miguel and his maracaibos, considered one of the first to bring cumbia to Peru.

There are other songs in the Gonzales rankings, very popular in their time and that have become references for the formation of Peruvian cumbia. We throw some: “The Paila”subject of ; “Mr Jose”from either “The devil” from .

Nevertheless, the takeoff of the cumbia genre “made in Peru” will take place a little later. When? When cumbia meets rock, something that we develop in the next installment, which will be soon.


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