To experience Eva Ayllón, is to experience Peru. Eva is to Peru what Celia Crúz is to Cuba – a woman with a tremendous singing voice, who’s full of adoration and passion for her country— feelings that inevitably envelope the listener as well.
For 35 years, Eva has been entertaining her people, as well as massive audiences all over the world with her beloved Afro-Peruvian music, known in Peru as música criolla.
On Sunday July 17th, in celebration of Peru’s upcoming Independence Day, Eva Ayllón gave her first Queens performance at La Oveja Negra. Hundreds of Peruvian fans of all ages – from twenty to seventy-somethings–gave her a warm greeting chanting, "Eva! Evaaa!"
Eva opened the show with the late Chabuca Granda’s famous vals, "Fina Estampa." The crowd became spellbound and began taking out their camera phones to capture the special moment digitally. Next came "Negra Presuntuosa," from her latest album, Eva! Leyenda Peruana (2004); the audience quickly started swaying their hips to the captivating rhythm. It’s not everyday they get to see Eva Ayllón sing the treasured songs they grew up hearing at family reunions and civic gatherings.
Eva is known for singing traditional genres, such as the landó, the festejo, and the vals: all mestizo blends of coastal Peru’s Andean, African, and Spanish heritage.
Landós originated from an Angolan fertility dance called "londu" brought to Brazil by the slaves. The Peruvian landó is a blend of Spanish and African rhythms. "El landó llego en Peru en el año 1520, cuando los negros llegaron a Peru," Eva explained. "Ha sido el ritmo que he ayudado el esclavo a recordar su tierra. El landó es la lloranza del negro esclavo – como decir ‘te extraño’ a la tierra."
The landó is a bit slower than the festejo, although both contain a prominent beat from the cajón. Festejos, her most festive songs of all, were meant for celebrations. They trigger quick dance movements by the body, like a sensual communication between the dancers. "Ingá," and "Le dije a Papá" are some famous festejos.
For the performance, Eva’s voice was backed-up by a cajón, congos, bongo, piano, electronic bass, and a guitar. She was also accompanied by two back up singers: her sister Rosa Ayllón and Brazilian Sofia Buitrón. Buitrón and Eva danced a fiery festejo during the show – the two of them imitating each others’ rapid undulating torso and leg movements.
In addition to landós and festejos, Eva also sings the much slower and romantic vals. "Cuando llora mi Guitarra" and "Que Somos Amantes" are examples of this genre derived from the Viennese waltz but with Spanish guitar riffs, and boleros. Eva further demonstrated her romantic side during the show by throwing rose stems to the audience.
All her songs are unique for her, she says, "Todas tienen un gran significado. Son como mis hijas." Eva conveys the love she has for her songs during her performances. She is a passionate woman who feels what she sings, as if the lyrics were flowing out of her heart.
Eva was born María Angélica Ayllón Urbina in 1956. She started her singing career at the early age of three under her grandmother’s tutelage. Ayllón adopted "Eva" from her grandmother. She didn’t come from a musical family, "Siento que [mi talento] fue reincarnada de alguien o de muchas personas. Yo creo mucho en la reincarnación," she says.
Ayllón started out singing at school competitions. Soon after, she worked her way up to television and radio. By the 1970’s, she was appearing in the local peñas criollas (a gathering of musicians, typical in South America). From 1973 to 1975, she was the lead singer in the trio Los Kipus, and in 1978, she debuted as a soloist with the release of Esta Noche. By 1979, she began touring internationally, all over Europe, the United States, Canada, and Japan. And in 1989, she sang in Los Hijos del Sol, a group comprised of all-star Peruvian musicians including master drummer Alex Acuña. By 2002, with over 20 albums in her discography, she received her eighth award for achieving double platinum status for the album, 30 Años en Vivo (2000).
Ayllón left her beloved Peru and moved to New Jersey six months ago to be with her family. "Todo es alla para mi, dentro de mi pais, pero el amor te arranca a cualquier tierra," says Eva.
Judging from her adoring fans, Eva has been most-heartily welcomed to the U.S. Her message to all of them: "Que se sienten feliz, y que yo traigo un poco de Peru…que se recuerden sus calles, sus casas, sus camas…"