Thanks to the United States' installation of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1973, singer/poet Mariana Montalvo was forced to leave her home at the age of 20 for exile in Paris, where she has lived and worked ever since. “I've lived less than half my life in Chile,” says the 51-year-old Latina artist, who insists that her heart never really left the country. “The clay that I'm made from came from Chile, but it was cooked in Europe,” she continues. And it is her roots in Chilean music that helps to keep her pan-European cache of artistic influences grounded in tradition. That said, Montalvo's latest CD, Piel de Aceituna (Harmonia Mundi/World Village) spans a musical gamut from indigenous roots to tropical dance to reggae.
Montalvo also contributed a song to Putumayo's Women of Latin America compilation, a disc that also features music by the two women who have joined Montalvo on the Manhattan-based world music label's “Latinas” tour that, thankfully for fans of Latin music, makes a stop in Albuquerque this week. Along with Brazilian singer (and niece to the great Caetano Veloso) Belô Velloso and legendary Colombian vocalist Totó La Momposina and a host of accompanying musicians, Montalvo has embarked on a 28-city tour designed to spread awareness not just of three of the finest Latina singers to ever grace stateside stages, but to exemplify the women's strength, artistically and otherwise.
“Women have a larger sense of affection than men, mostly because we are obligated to carry men in our womb,” says Montalvo. “What better way to show our range as women than with a [sampling] of feminine voices in Latin America?” What better way, indeed?