In 2015, Grammy-nominated singer Perla Batalla began pondering songs to include in a follow-up CD to her 2007 tribute release to friend and mentor Leonard Cohen. As a longtime touring band member with the legendary songwriter, Perla knew there was much of Cohen's body of work she still wanted to perform and record.
Batalla's first Cohen CD, Bird on the Wire,
was produced with Leonard's blessing; he attended the recording session, weighed in on material and arrangements, and uncharacteristically participated in a photo session at his Los Angeles home to promote the project. (Says Perla, "Leonard was having so much fun—at the last minute he ran to his closet for a silk ascot to look more suave in the photos!")
Cohen's passing in November 2016 reaffirmed Batalla's mission of sharing the lesser-known songs of Canada's poet laureate to a younger public mostly familiar with the well-covered Hallelujah
. She also wanted to dispel the too -ommon mischaracterization of Cohen as "The Godfather of Gloom". The man she knew was, more often than not, motivated by sly humor and the absurd. Perla Batalla in the House of Cohen features selected songs and rare personal anecdotes that serve to reveal Cohen's lighter side (like Mr. Cohen's deep affection for the 99 Cent Store and his delight at dining on hot dogs at Home Depot).
The evening reveals the timelessness of Cohen's art through Batalla's signature cross-cultural style, to convey her sincere respect and deep love for the music, the poetry and most of all for her dear friend, Leonard Cohen.
"In this show, there are times when I ask my audience to sing with me," Batalla says. "I feel that the coming together of voices has the power to touch Leonard's spirit and with it, his lifelong devotion to art and the mysteries of the human heart. Live music is about being in the moment, and I always have this secret expectation that as we lift our voices up as one we will feel Leonard all around us…and we usually do."
was born in Los Angeles, California, and raised by a family immersed in music; her father, a Mexican singer and D.J., and an Argentine mother who ran a bustling record store called Discoteca Batalla. At the family record shop Perla was exposed to an education of non-stop music that cut across genre and language. After recording and touring with Leonard Cohen for over 10 years on multiple world tours, Perla launched her solo career with Cohen's encouragement. Since then she has recorded seven albums, been featured in film and television, and performed and recorded with artists such as Lou Reed, k.d. lang, John Cale, Sonny Rollins, Jackson Browne, Duquende, Luz Casal, Laurie Anderson, David Sandborn and George Duke.
The L.A. Times
writes, "Batalla is brilliant performing in both English and Spanish, proud of her mestiza heritage, musically adventurous and always accompanied by impeccable performers…. above all, she is a born storyteller with a rambunctious sense of humor."
Perla's mission of honoring her roots and exposing young audiences to the beauty of poetry and music is ongoing in her outreach endeavors throughout some of the poorest communities in the U.S. She is the recipient of the United Nation’s Earth Charter Award for "extraordinary devotion to social and economic justice."
"Spellbinding!" ~San Francisco Chronicle
"Batalla brings the house down!" ~The Guardian
"Perla Batalla is the unofficial ambassador of Leonard Cohen in Spain." ~El Pais
"Beautifully conceived and executed, Bird on the Wire
is a rewarding listening experience I find myself returning to frequently. It is every bit the equal of Jennifer Warnes' classic Cohen tribute album Famous Blue Raincoat
. For those uninitiated to the glories of the songs of Leonard Cohen this is a wonderful introduction. For the rest of us it is simply heavenly." ~Sing Out Magazine
"...Batalla has a glorious, supple voice, with the vocal power to sing the bluesy, Bonnie Raitt-styled Holy Roses
and the finesse needed to bring new shadings to Leonard Cohen's Bird on a Wire
"Onstage, offstage, digital or analog, I love Perla Batalla." ~Leonard Cohen
"This singer has become a perfect example of the new Latina woman in the U.S.—proud of her heritage, perfectly fluid in at least two languages, and an expert in translating cultural traditions from distinct places in the world." ~La Opinion
"…Dealing with such issues as race and loss of identity, Batalla has created a musical voyage well worth taking…" ~Newsday
"What is most astonishing overall, however is Perla Batalla's voice. You could break it down technically and say that she has perfect pitch, an incredible range and that her phrasing is ingenious. But more important is the soul, the emotion, the feel. It's a voice that soars and wails and whispers and croons and cracks and chants and seduces and reaches and stretches and speaks…This is not merely a "talented" artist—I'm talking about someone who is "gifted". Gifted with a voice that does things most voices cannot do. Not only is this timeless music, I believe it's some mighty high art." ~Crawdaddy Magazine
"Perla Batalla describes her most recent CD, Heaven and Earth: The Mestiza Voyage
(Mechuda Music), as a song cycle. But it could just as easily be called a dream cycle, with moody thoughts that sound at times like chants or those scraps of phrase—musical or otherwise—that won't leave your brain. Batalla, a California Chicana, has looked hard at the uncomfortable feeling common among Mexican Americans of not belonging neither to the dominant Anglo nor Mexican cultures. She's explored a number of possible resolutions, from moving to Mexico to travelling as one of Canadian songwriter Leonard Cohen's backup singers. Her solution seems to be The Mestiza Voyage
. The songs narrate the common roots, from Teotihuacan
, in which the site of Tonantzin's desecrated shrine is visited by the apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe, to a hopeful breaking down of barriers in Making Up for Lost Time
. Yes, Batalla is already known for her lovely, powerful voice. Now it is time to celebrate her songs as well." ~Philadelphia Weekly
"...Perla Batalla is the kind of artist Peter Gabriel would fall in love with. Comfortable in both English and Spanish, proud of her mestiza heritage, musically adventurous and accompanied by impeccable performers, Batalla would make a fitting addition to Gabriel's Real World record label roster...Listen to folky Batalla epics such as Eternity
and Turtle Island
and you hear a Chicana Joni Mitchell, a gutsier Joan Baez, an idealistic artist...Batalla's music caresses with its harmonies and gentle rhythms, then draws you in with an unexpected chorus or an unusual melodic resolution. But above all, she is a born storyteller with a rambunctious sense of humor..." ~Ernesto Lechner, L.A. Times
"...The star of this night was clearly Ms. Batalla and her astonishingly rich voice. Performing classic Mexican songs requires an appreciation of the tradition from which they sprang and Perla Batalla has not forgotten her roots. What she gives lovingly to the classics through her own rare musical gifts is what turns a simple song like Mananitas
into a profoundly emotional experience...the best of what music can do is to provide moments that allow us to forget everything else but the exquisite melody and words which link a gentle current directly to our hearts. What Batalla did with Cucurrucucu
was simply otherworldly, painting the tender melody with small brushstrokes, ever so delicately but with deep feeling. The entire hall fell silent; no one seemed to breathe as the tale of heartbreak unfolded. You could have heard a dove's heartbeat in the upper balcony. The final notes came clear and sweet as fine crystal as a sweet shudder of emotion passed through the hall. The audience that came for dancing unexpectedly had found much more, something to take home and keep like found treasure. Not a soul who heard this jewel will ever forget the name Perla Batalla." ~Latino LA
Wednesday, September 21
Albert and Janet Schultz Cultural Arts Hall (Bldg F)
Contact: Michelle Shabtai | [email protected]