Songs from the heart

By Tova Fruchtman: CNJ staff writer

Ten years ago — after singing backup for k.d. lang, the Gyspy Kings, Iggy Pop and others — Perla Batalla said she left the music industry because she was frustrated.

The record companies were pushing her toward pop music and away from the part of her identity she wanted reflected in her music — her Hispanic heritage.

“Record companies rarely take on artists that really want to say something,” said Batalla, who will play in Clovis on Tuesday as part of the Clovis Community College Cultural Arts Series. “I’m a woman of cross-cultural lineage so it has been a struggle … but from this rich heritage I believe I have something to say.”

Her music combines traditional Mexican ballads with pop and blues music. Her lyrics that combine Spanish and English reflect Batalla’s Latino culture and her experience as a woman and a mother.

Batalla said she enjoys giving her audience a glimpse of what it is like to grow up in a Hispanic family.

Born in Los Angeles, Batalla was exposed to music at a young age.

Her father was a singer, a radio personality and owner of a record store called Discoteca Batalla, according to the biography on Batalla’s Web site.

Batalla — after studying on scholarship at Lee Strasberg Theater Institute — got roles on television and in movies and eventually began touring and singing backup for the man who helped encourage her to begin writing and composing her own music, Leonard Cohen.

Hispanic people often thank her for her work, she said.

“One of the things Hispanics say to me is thank God you took these songs out of the restaurants,” Batalla said. She said many times the songs she performs are the background music at restaurants serving chips, salsa and burritos.

Francine Garcia, a member of the CCC Cultural Arts Board and season ticket holder, said Batalla pushes Hispanic cultural music into a new era.

“I believe it’s Hispanic music of the new generation,” Garcia said.

“I’ve heard so many great things about her. I’ve been very anxiously waiting for her to come.”
Batalla said she has visited New Mexico before and is looking forward to returning.

“ I feel a real connection with New Mexico,” she said. “For me it feels like home.” She said she was unsure why she felt such a connection with the state, but guessed it might be a shared heritage.

Batalla thinks live performance is the most inspiring way to get her message of hope and optimism across.

“The state of the world and everything going on can seem so frightening. The thing that feeds the soul is live performance,” she said.