There is evidence of music in Peru dating back 10,000 years, and each region has its own distinct sounds and dance. Musical historians have identified more than 1,000 genres of music in Peru. Traditional instruments include quenas, zampoñas, pututos (trumpets made from seashells), and many other wind instruments crafted from cane, bone, horns, and precious metals, as well as a wide range of percussion instruments. Exposure to Western cultures has introduced new instruments such as the harp, violin, and guitar to Peruvian music. But Peruvian music can still be identified by its distinctive instruments, and there are many besides the basics of highland music.

The cajón is a classic percussion instrument, typical in música criolla and música negra, as well as marinera. A simple wooden box with a sound hole in the back, the cajón is played by a musician who sits on top and pounds the front like a bongo. The cajón has recently been introduced into flamenco music by none other than the legendary flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucía. Another classic Peruvian instrument is the quena, an Andean flute that dates to the pre-Columbian era. The best-known wind instrument in Peru, it's usually made out of bamboo, and it typically has five or six holes. Lengths vary to create different pitches. Another popular wind instrument is the zampoña, which belongs to the panpipe family and varies greatly in size. The zampoña is never absent at festivals in southern Peru, particularly Puno. String instruments are now fundamental in almost all música folclórica. The charango, very popular in the southern Andes, is like a small, high-pitched guitar with 5 or 10 strings. Its resonance box is often crafted from an armadillo or kirkincho shell, although increasingly it's made of wood.

Music on the coast is very different from traditional Andean sounds. Chicha is a relatively new addition to the list of musical genres. A hybrid of sorts of the huayno and Colombian cumbia, chicha is an extremely popular urban dance, especially among the working class. It has spread rapidly across Peru and throughout Latin America. Música criolla mixes African and Spanish rhythms, with a taste of everything from the foxtrot to the tango, while Afro-Peruvian music, especially popular on the coast around Lima, is contemporary black popular music. It originated with African slaves in Peru but was long dormant before being revived in the 1950s and '60s. The music is soulful and powerful, with intoxicating dance rhythms. Nicomedes Santa Cruz, Susana Baca, and Peru Negro are among the style's greatest exponents. Baca, in particular, has made a big ripple in the so-called world-music scene in North America and Europe.

Dances associated with Afro-Peruvian music include lively and sensual festejo dances, in which participants respond to striking of the cajón, one of the Afro-Peruvian music's essential instruments. The alcatraz is an extremely erotic dance. Females enter the dance floor with tissue on their posteriors. The men, meanwhile, dance with lit candles. The not-so-subtle goal on the dance floor is for the man to light the woman's fire (and thus become her partner).

Peruvian tourism authorities produce a guide to festivities, music, and folk art, and it features a diagram of native dances in Peru. Especially up and down the coast, and in the central corridor of the Andes, the map is a bewildering maze of numbers indicating the indigenous dances practiced in given regions. Two dances, though, have become synonymous with Peru, the huayno and marinera.