Ciro Hurtado has been kicking around the music scene for about three decades or so, working out of Los Angeles, although he was born and raised (through age 19) in Peru. As a youngster he spent half his time growing up in the jungle at a village/plantation accessible only by dirt walking trails and by an old World War II plane landing on a runway carved out of the Amazonian rainforest, and the other half of the time going to school in the largest city, Lima. His musical upbringing was learning Peruvian folk music from family members and tribes people, and practicing the rock’n’roll that he heard on the BBC, Radio Moscow and Radio La Habana Cuba. Of course when he moved to the United States his musical influences multiplied. He has recorded numerous albums as a solo artist and with his multi-ethnic group Huayucaltia.

As of late he has returned to Peru a few times to perform and that walk down memory lane has led to a certain amount of new Peruvian musical exploration and inspiration. He still works with a variety of musicians from around the world, but more often than not they are Spanish speaking/singing ones from the USA southwest and west, Central America and South America. His music is Latin-based, but does not have the heavy-handedness of salsa or even Latin pop. It is difficult to describe, but perhaps delicate is the word. The music is generally soft and gentle, even when uptempo. Because of this he gets a lot of airplay on new age radio stations/channels as well as Latin and world music radio shows.

Hurtado’s 2016 album release is Selva (which means “jungle” in Spanish), a tip of the hat to his childhood roots. As with his last album, Ayahuasca Dreams, about half of the music is instrumental and the other part features Spanish singing (wordless vocalizing on one tune) by several different female singers from groups such as Sabia, Cojunto Jardin, Trio Ellas and Gliese 229. These ladies, singing together or separately, have lovely voices. The music holds together with Hurtado’s sensitive and excellent acoustic guitar playing on every tune augmented on much of the recording by ethnic flutes and percussion, and a few other world music instruments, as well as bass, drums and a little keyboards/accordion. What impresses most are: first the melodies, second the arrangements and production (very tasty, by Hurtado), and third the musicianship and singing. Basically this album has the entire package.

Most of the singing is at the beginning of the album and the first two tunes, “Cumbia de la Selva” and “Asi Eres tu en mi Corazon,” have very pretty and appealing melodies. The instrumental “El Morro” and the mostly-instrumental “Un Pacto de Amor” both feature guitar solos as well as earthy flute solos. Just when you think you have heard it all, the album closes with four exquisite softer pieces. “Bolero del Ocaso” is just guitar with sympathetic and perfectly supporting bass and drums. “Rio” has the same instruments but with wordless vocals added. “Zamba Triste” is an easy-going little solo acoustic guitar number. “Solo Tu” is Ciro on acoustic again accompanying the singing of his wife Cindy Harding. The album is just a wealth of mini-classics. And you do not have to speak Spanish or be a hardcore Latin music lover to appreciate this music. It speaks to all and reaches across cultural and political boundaries to bring warmth, solace, peace and joy to any listener savvy enough to give it a listen and pay attention. Muchas gracias.