In the summer of 2005, Grammy nominated singer Perla Batalla made the passage
to Buenos Aires to meet her Argentine family for the first time. As a child immersed in
Mexican culture, Perla always assumed both her parents were from Mexico, only more
lately learning of her mothers’ Argentine origins. Perla’s mother, Barbara immigrated
alone to the United States as a teenager. She met a handsome young singer named
Jorge Batalla at a Los Angeles ESL class and fell in love – first with Jorge, and then
ultimately with the Mexican culture he introduced her to. Barbara worked to learn the
cuisine, music and rich traditions of Mexico, in time even losing her Argentine accent.
She ran the family’s Latin American record shop and raised four kids, never returning
Perla is the first of her siblings to meet a welcoming family, learn their songs and
stories, and ultimately begin her own love affair with a soulful culture bursting with
passion and pride. This album, an anthology of traditional South American songs was
inspired by that passage. And while the songs are classic, the arrangements are pure
Perla. The results are a great introduction to early Argentine Tango-song.
There is a pair of tracks by notable Argentine composer Carlos Gardel, known as El
Zorzal Criollo, the songbird of Buenos Aires, who essentially invented the Tango-song
in 1917. He died in a plane crash over 70 years ago, but his music is as popular as
ever; and “Caminito” by Juan de Dios Filberto and Gabino Coria Peñalosa, a song so
popular that a street in Buenos Aires is named after it. These songs, like the songs of
Woody Guthrie in the United States, are so well known in Argentina that they seem to
have always existed.
The CD also contains several songs from Mexico, because, as
Perla says, “Mexican music is never too far from my heart or lips”. Thus, you get “Un
Mundo Raro” from noted ranchero composer Jose Alfredo Jiminez and “Esta Tarde vi
Llover” from one of the premiere Mexican romantic composers of our time, Armando
Manzanero. “The Art of Poetry” is an evocative rendering of a poem from Argentina’s
foremost literary master, Jorge Luis Borges.
To round out the tour of Latin America, there is “Gracias a la Vida” (Thanks to Life)
written by Chilean folklorist, Violeta Parra. “Gracias” was made famous by another
legend of Argentina, Mercedes Sosa. Perla dedicates this album to the courage of this
great artist and activist.