Saturday, March 7, 2015

Afro-Peruvian Classic Song "Toro Mata" , Part I (information, comments, lyrics)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part I of a two part series on the Afro-Peruvian classic song "Toro Mata" ("The Bull Kills").

Part I provides information and comments about the song "Toro Mata" as well as its dance. Part I also features one version of the song's Spanish lyrics and one version of the song's English lyrics.

Click for Part II of this series.

Part II showcases seven videos of vocal, musical, and dance performances of "Toro Mata". Brief biographical quotes about most of the featured vocalists are also included in this post.

The content of this post is provided for cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic reasons.

All copyrights remains with their owners.

Thanks to Caitro" Soto for composing this song from its folk roots. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post.

"Toro Mata" ("The Bull Kills" in Spanish) is one of the most famous Afro-Peruvian songs in Peru, which has been recorded and developed by many different musical artists throughout its history. Toro Mata is a type of Peruvian music initially developed by black slaves in Cañete and Chincha.

"Toro Mata" is a song influenced by Afro-Peruvian musical styles (this song is classified as a landó), and over the years, has become a popular anthem for Peru. A dance of "Toro Mata" also developed, which mocks and parodies the stylized waltzes of European Conquistadores. This politically charged song and dance developed as a reaction to the conquest of Peru by Spain. By the beginning of the 20th century, "Toro Mata" was fading from popularity, but it has again become popular due the revival of musica criolla starting in the 1950s.

One of the most famous versions of "Toro Mata" was performed by Carlos Soto de la Colina (also known as Caitro Soto) in 1973. "Toro Mata" has also been performed by Peruvian musicians Susana Baca, Eva Ayllon, Peru Negro and Lucila Campos. There are many different versions of "Toro Mata" within Peru, with slight differences in content, though all center on a deadly bull. The song has gained popularity outside of Peru, with Cuban artist Celia Cruz recording a salsa version of the song."
Italics added by me to highlight this sentence.

Toro Mata," an Afro-Peruvian classic
"Toro Mata is one of those performance numbers that nearly disappeared forever from the world, but was saved from oblivion just in time. And I am so glad...

Caitro Soto, recently deceased, was a leading figure in reviving Afro-Peruvian music and dance, and bringing it to a wider public. He was able to do so in part because his grandmother and great-grandmother taught him many of the old, old songs when he was a boy. And he was a boy who loved to sing, loved to play the cajón, and was proud of his culture.

Toro Mata is one of the music and dance selections that he learned from his grandmother and great-grandmother. The great-grandmother in particular was only one generation away from the days of slavery, and knew many of the old songs dating from that time.

Toro Mata tells the story of two friends, both Afro-Peruvians at the time of slavery, who belonged to a man who raised bulls for bull-fights. One of the friends had been drinking, and decided in his slightly inebriated state, that he´d like to try his hand at bull-fighting.
The other people present agreed to this and gave him a bull, but his friend urged him to be cautious.

When he tried to fight the bull, the bull went after his black skin and not the red bull-fighter´s cape. He couldn´t get away from the bull. His friend tried to get him to stop, but it was no use.

We don´t hear the final outcome, but after all, the song´s title is Toro Mata, which means "the bull kills." I think it´s fair to assume that this is what happened to him."

"After the late Celia Cruz recorded Toro Mata, the song turned into the most recognizable from the Afro Peruvian musical landscape. The Toro Mata is a landó and in its dance form becomes a mockery of the minuet and other stiff European dances observed by the slaves in the homes of their masters. The lyrics also offer double-entendre since the toro or bull embodies a significant symbol of Spanish culture."

Comment from "ToroMata - Perú Negro" [This video is included in Part II of this pancocojams series.]
GriseldeHeineken, January 2014
"El toro es una metafora , se trata de los conquistadores que quieren arrancar la cultura incaica y la africana de sus raices pero sin conciencia hicieron una base de una cultura muy alta , la afro incaica que no existe ninguna parecida en el mundo !!!! gracias los espańoles que en vez de destruir las dos culturas , vos sin querer han creado una maravilla , gracias , toritos !!!"
[My revision of the YouTube translation of this comment from Spanish to English]:
The bull is a metaphor, it is the conquerors who want to stop the Inca culture and its African roots but instead made it the foundation of a very high culture, African-Inca culture, there's nothing to compare it with in the world!!!! Thanks the Spanish instead of destroying the two cultures, you inadvertently created something wonderful. Thank you, bulls !!!

[Musical Genre] Landó
[composition credited to] Carlos Soto de la Colina

Toro mata, ahí, toro mata,
toro mata arrrumbambero
¡ay! toro mata.

La color no le permite
hacer el quite a Pititi
¡ay! toro mata.

Toro viejo se murió
mañana comemos caine,
¡ay! toro mata

¡Ay! la pondé, pondé, pondé,
este negro no es de aqui,
este negro es de Acarí.

Hay que matar a ese negro,
¿quién trajo a ese negro aquí?
¡Ay la pondé, pondé, pondé
¡Ay la pondé e e.

*This is one version of this song's lyrics. The English lyrics below are from another version.

[composition credited to] Carlos Soto de la Colina

Toro Mata, the bull kills
The bull kills, dancing bull, the bull kills

The old bull is dead
Tomorrow we’ll eat meat, the bull is dead
The old bull has died
Tomorrow we’ll feast, the bull is dead

His color doesn’t let him move out of the way quickly enough
and the bull might kill him
That man’s color doesn’t permit him to hide
and the bull might kill him

Don’t cut him with the rope
It’ll get too bloody
Don’t cut him with the rope
It’ll get too bloody

Here’s Pitité the drummer, the music’s kicking!
Ay, la ponde, la ponde, ponde, ponde
This black man is not from here
This black man is from Acari
Who brought this black man here?
We must kill this black man
Ay, la ponde, la ponde, ponde, ponde

Source: "Afro-Peruvian Classics: the Soul of Black Peru" album, sung by Lucila Campos. Lyrics and note taken from a website for that ablum and reposted on

Note from that website: "La ponde translated from the KiKôngo language means: I twist, I twist/I kill, I kill."
From [referring to a performance's inclusion of Kikongo chants into the song "Toro Mata":
"Kikongo [was] the dialect spoken by a significant number of the slaves who were eventually taken to Perú."
This video is found in Part II of this series.
With regard to the song lyrics "This black man is not from here/This black man is from Acari/
Who brought this black man here?", Diego Martinez-a blogger writing in December 2014 on the viewer comment threads for one of the videos showcased in Part II of this series* notes that "Muchos no conocen Acari , es un pueblo bastante tranquilo :)" ("Many do not know Acari, it is a fairly quiet town :)"

However, given the statement quoted earlier that "["Toro Mata"] is a politically charged song and dance", I wonder if the referent to "Acari" means something more than or something other than a particular Peruvian town. Since "Toro Mata" was sung by enslaved people who were at least partially of African descent, could "Acari" be a coded way of referring to Africa? At the very least, people should remember that literal transcriptions of old songs- and particularly of folk songs of enslaved people- aren't always what those people meant when they sung those songs and when they heard those songs sung.

*Diego Martinez's comment is from the discussion thread for the video EVA AYLLON - TORO MATA

This is the end of Part I of this series.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Viewer comments are welcome.


  1. thx for share,

    1. You're welcome, Tips Kesehatan dan Kecantikan.

      I'm glad that I happened upon information about the Afro Peruvian song Toro Mata. It is a Peruvian national treasure that should be shared with and honored by the entire world.

  2. What a treasure of information. Thanks so much for posting!

    1. You're welcome, Ann Dyer.

      Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it.

  3. I love afro-peruvian music and Toro Mata is my favorite. Thank you for helping me to understand it.

    1. Greetings, Unknown.

      I appreciate your comment.

      I'm very unfamiliar with Afro-Peruvian music, but I plan to feature search for more YouTube examples of this music and showcase it on this blog.

      One Love!