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A Pearl of a Singer

Perla Batalla brings her sublime voice to World Theater

One voice. Two languages. Many traditions.

That’s what will be on display when Grammy nominated vocalist and composer Perla Batalla returns to California State University, Monterey Bay’s World Theater on Oct. 18 as the Performing Arts Series continues. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.

No newcomer to the area, Batalla performed on the Seaside campus in the past and is back by popular demand.

Batalla was born in Los Angeles, where her father, a musician, owned a popular Spanish-language record store. The music she heard there influenced her profoundly. She first gained international attention as a backup singer for Leonard Cohen. Some years later, Cohen encouraged her to embark on a solo career. She released her debut album in 1994. The critics loved it, calling her singing “sublime” and her talent “stunning.” “Mestiza” followed in 1998, and “Heaven and Earth” in 2000. The Spanish-language classics she heard growing up are featured on her fourth album, “Discoteca Batalla,” recorded in 2002 as a tribute to her parents’ record shop. Since its release, it has consistently appeared on “best of” lists throughout the country. In 2004, Batalla was invited by the Kennedy Center to perform songs from the album as artist in residence. A year later, her Grammy-nominated tribute to Cohen, “Bird on the Wire,” was praised by Sing Out magazine as “beautifully conceived and executed.” “ ‘Bird on the Wire’ was something I felt I had to do,” she told a newspaper in San Rafael. “I feel so connected to Leonard’s music. I feel it’s a part of me, a part that’s very deep.”

In 2005, she also released, “What I Did on My Summer Vacation,” an anthology of South American songs inspired by a trip to Buenos Aires to meet her Argentine family for the first time. The results are a great introduction to Argentine tango and some of South America’s greatest composers. As can be expected, Batalla has made them all her own.

In her 2012 release, "Lazy Afternoon," she returns to her jazz roots, breathing new life into classics from the great American songbook. She honors her roots and exposes young audiences to the beauty of music and the Spanish language through her outreach efforts in some of the poorest communities in the United States. In 2008, she received the U.N.- commissioned Earth Charter Award for extraordinary devotion to social and economic justice. That work makes her a good fit for the World Theater.

“Besides presenting an evening of memorable music and song, Perla Batalla’s performance follows our mission to educate and enlighten our campus and local communities through diverse entertainment and performances,” said Joe Cardinalli, executive director of University Performances and Special Events.

“We are so pleased to have Perla return to the World Theater stage. She’s the ultimate professional and a pleasure to work with.”

Tickets range from $25 to $40 and can be purchased by calling the World Theater box office at (831) 582-4580 or online. The World Theater is located on Sixth Avenue between A and B streets on the CSUMB campus. Driving directions and a campus map are available at “. . . Batalla’s music caresses . . . a born storyteller with a rambunctious sense of humor. " – Los Angeles Times