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Tondero is a dance
Dance is an art form that generally refers to movement of the body, usually rhythmic and to music, used as a form of expression, social interaction or presented in a spiritual or performance setting....

 and guitar
The guitar is a plucked string instrument, usually played with fingers or a pick. The guitar consists of a body with a rigid neck to which the strings, generally six in number, are attached. Guitars are traditionally constructed of various woods and strung with animal gut or, more recently, with...

 rhythm from the Peru
Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....

vian north coast (Piura
Piura Region
Piura is a coastal region in northwestern Peru. The region's capital is Piura and its largest port cities, Paita and Talara, are also among the most important in Peru...

Lambayeque Region
Lambayeque is a region in northwestern Peru known for its rich Moche and Chimú historical past. The region's name originates from the ancient pre-Inca civilization of the Lambayeque.-Etymology:...


Geographical origin of tondero and cumananas

The Tondero is a Peruvian dance and rhythm born in the north coast adjacent to the eastern valleys of the Sierra or “yungas” of Piura
Piura Region
Piura is a coastal region in northwestern Peru. The region's capital is Piura and its largest port cities, Paita and Talara, are also among the most important in Peru...

, Sechura
Sechura is a town in northwestern Peru, 50 km south of Piura. It is the capital of Sechura Province in the Piura Region. The town gives its name to the Sechura Desert, which extends south along most of coastal Peru...

 and Lambayeque
Lambayeque Region
Lambayeque is a region in northwestern Peru known for its rich Moche and Chimú historical past. The region's name originates from the ancient pre-Inca civilization of the Lambayeque.-Etymology:...

. The oldest version is from the Morropón Province
Morropón Province
The Morropón Province is one of eight provinces of the Piura Region in Peru.- Boundaries :*North Ayabaca Province*East Huancabamba Province*South Lambayeque Region*West Piura Province- Political Division :...

, approximately the center of Piura's region, below the highlands and inland from the coast.

Description and composition of the tondero

The classical version consists of a principal singer, a small chorus
A choir, chorale or chorus is a musical ensemble of singers. Choral music, in turn, is the music written specifically for such an ensemble to perform.A body of singers who perform together as a group is called a choir or chorus...

, two Criollo
Creole peoples
The term Creole and its cognates in other languages — such as crioulo, criollo, créole, kriolu, criol, kreyol, kreol, kriulo, kriol, krio, etc. — have been applied to people in different countries and epochs, with rather different meanings...

style guitar players (one picking up the tundete or tondero bass line); the "Peruvian cajon" (now used in Latin American commercial rhythms), modern flamenco
Flamenco is a genre of music and dance which has its foundation in Andalusian music and dance and in whose evolution Andalusian Gypsies played an important part....

 and evolutionary jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

), and/or Peruvian spoon players. It may be accompanied by palms or an Afro-Peruvian instrument made of dried and flattened pumpkins called checo.

It is also played by trumpet
The trumpet is the musical instrument with the highest register in the brass family. Trumpets are among the oldest musical instruments, dating back to at least 1500 BCE. They are played by blowing air through closed lips, producing a "buzzing" sound which starts a standing wave vibration in the air...

 and drum bands.


It is composed of three parts: 1) glosa 2) dulce and 3) fuga.
  1. The glosa is the entrance and lyrical informative part of a tondero. It is characterized by a tragic melodic ballad
    A ballad is a form of verse, often a narrative set to music. Ballads were particularly characteristic of British and Irish popular poetry and song from the later medieval period until the 19th century and used extensively across Europe and later the Americas, Australia and North Africa. Many...

     type of singing called triste or cumanana (picaresque way) whereby the principal voice is heard over the base line initial rhythm. The rhythm is accelerated as the introduction ends; the fast paced "repique" done by the cajons, spoons and hand claps is also called the “Golpe de Tierra”.
  2. The sweet, or dulce, is the intermedial and reaffirmation of the head singer many times sung right off a rhythm spin and sung by a chorus that cuts between the head singer.
  3. The runaway, or fuga, is the ending part. It is very fast paced and sung very passionately.

Ethnic origin of tondero

In its choreography and its music, the tondero is very similar to the marinera, Perú's national dance, and the marinera norteña, the version of the marinera popular in the northern part of Perú—roughly the area around Trujillo and Piura. All of these dances ultimately stem from what had been cultivated in Perú by Spanish horsemen of Gypsy origin, then modified by African slaves. The terminology of "Tondero" derives from the terms Volandero, and Volero (to fly by, describes the gypsy errant and caravanistic life) yet it eventually evolved into a "T", as to describe the tundete sound and base rhythm typical to it: "Bum Bum Bum". This base rhythm derives from trumpeting Zards yet carefully scales on guitar and the dance handfigures and movements are primitive Bulerias
Bulería is a fast flamenco rhythm in 12 beats with emphasis in two general forms as follows:1 2 [3] 4 5 [6] 7 [8] 9 [10] 11 [12]or...

. The cock fight so popular among Gypsies worldwide is where the dance gets its choreography and inspiration.

However, as the years went on, the significance of African influence added to its gypsy origin and so did the mingling of these with the native Amerindians.

Unlike the Zamacueca
The Zamacueca is an ancient colonial dance that originated in the Viceroyalty of Peru, taking its roots from African, Spanish, and Andean rhythms...

, which directly derives from Zambrainas and Hispano-African influences without Andean addings, the Tondero maintains a stronger gypsy origin in its tragic lyrics with visible addings of African and America, Indian influence as time went by.

Tondero themes

The dance expresses three themes, all inspired from the same emotion: the errant life of birds, cockfighting very common among Peruvians (Peruvian roosters are the largest and most aggressive) and lastly, the falling in love; between birds or between the macho stallion that battles to get the acceptance of the female, she flirts and doesn't let him conquer her until the end.

The prototype image of tondero and cumanana singers are the solitary mestizo or creole (northern Peruvian) farmers who stop and sing about their tragic hard life, their errant ways. Themes are usually tragic and somewhat picaresque, where one makes fun of one's tragedy. Typical topics are the loss of cattle, crops (due usually to El Niño phenomena) or the lament due to unrequited love from his "china" (dear woman).

The use of the handkerchief
A handkerchief , also called a handkercher or hanky, is a form of a kerchief, typically a hemmed square of thin fabric that can be carried in the pocket or purse, and which is intended for personal hygiene purposes such as wiping one's hands or face, or blowing one's nose...

, as a symbolic element that relates to the flying of errant birds, has a possible Gypsy inheritance that belongs to the weddings and is also seen in coastal dances like Zamacueca Limeña, Resbalosa, Canto de Jarana or Marinera Norteña. All of the dances seem to have guitarra and cajón instruments as their principal instruments.

Figures of course represent cockfights and the stumps, body-waste movements and hand movements are done in gypsy musical style where flirting is done by the women, and the stud acts, and picaresque attitude called machismo
Machismo, or machoism, is a word of Spanish and Portuguese origin that describes prominently exhibited or excessive masculinity. As an attitude, machismo ranges from a personal sense of virility to a more extreme male chauvinism...

, is done by the man.

Cultures that surround tondero and cumananas

Tondero is played by all coastal regions of the North; so there are styles from La Libertad, Lambayeque, Piura (the official region and origin of Tondero) and even Tumbes.

The "chinganas" (traditional creole music bars) has the popular costume of putting a "White Flags" as synonymous invitations for newcomers or solitary bohemian northmen "Piajenos" (how northern people call the typical farmers whom ride donkeys and mules) to come refresh themselves from the northern heat and have a "Chicha de Jora" drink. It is of course a great chance to listen to an old "Piajeno" farmer sing and play tondero rhythms, most typically of northern Lambayeque and southern Piura.

The "Cumananas" and "Tristes"

The cumananas and "Tristes" are somewhat like the tragic initial Zards or the Cante Jondo
Cante jondo
Cante jondo is a vocal style in flamenco. An unspoiled form of Andalusian folk music, the name means deep song It is generally considered that the common traditional classification of flamenco music is divided into three groups of which the deepest, most serious forms are known as cante jondo...

 of Andalucia but in a mestizo flavour. After a few drinks of Pisco
Pisco is a colorless or yellowish-to-amber colored grape brandy produced in winemaking regions of Chile and Peru. Pisco was developed by Spanish settlers in the 16th century as an alternative to orujo, a pomace brandy that was being imported from Spain...

, Algarrobina
Algarrobina is a syrup made from the Black Carob tree, it is popular in Peruvian cuisine and can be used in smoothies, cocktails, or simply in milk. It has high levels of protein and vitamins. It can be found in health food stores in the U.S....

 or Chicha en poto come the "Cumananas"; whom are coplas brought in "contra punto" style. They are sung in satiric and picaresque style but rooted always in a sad theme. The cumananas all surround the Tondero. Right before a tondero it is common to play cumanana and tristes. You can hear the resemblance to the yaraví (Andean song) mestizo in the guitar, gypsy roma balads of eastern Europe or Spain in the form of song and then the explosive finish line or "tundete" of guitar: the rhythm of Tondero itself.


The most probable is that the term tondero derives from the term volero (flyer, birds that fly) or bolero and after years of changes to Tondero (with a t) as faster version based on Zards and Flamenco. The musical composition of guitarra has a resemblance to the order of those trumpet gypsy bands found in Romania or Hungary whom after tragic intro, flow as nomadic tunes.

So we have a caravan-like feeling, where rhythms of cajón resemble as if they were mules, donkeys or even horses from a caravan. The thumping noise is accompanied by the "Tundete of the guitarr" that sounds like Ton-Ton-Tun. That is why it probably changed into Tondero instead of Volero (Bolero); there is also a gypsy rhythm called Volandero.

The music resembles primitive "Bulerias", "Tangos" or Zards yet played to the creative Peruvian cockfights, in the movements.

Famous tonderos

  1. EL BORRACHITO: Tondero from Salomón Díaz
  2. HA DE LLEGAR MI DUENA: Tondero from Chabuca Granda
  3. SAN MIGUEL DE PIURA: honoring of the first Spanish city in South America (Piura)
  4. ROSA VICTORIA: a famous tondero dance from Canchaque-Morropon
  5. LA PERLA DEL CHIRA: sung in honor of river and valley of Chira in Sullana
  6. SAN MIGUEL DE MORROPON: the City of Tondero farmers
  7. EL FORASTERO: in relation to their errant lives
  8. COPLAS DE AMOR Y TONDERO: cumanana & tondero from Lambayeque
  9. LA GRIPE LLEGO A CHEPEN: flu came to Chepen City
  10. MALABRIGO: in honor of La Libertad region; bad-luck port
  11. EN CHICLAYO NACIO DIOS: in honor of Chiclayo (hoy Trujillano)