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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America


By Phillip Van Vleck
Published September 13, 2005

Piel de Aceituna
Harmonia Mundi/World Village

Mariana Montalvo decided to leave her native Chile when the Pinochet regime came to power in 1974. She relocated to France, but her musical soul remained at the altitude of the Andes. Montalvo is one of the leading artists in the nueva cancion tradition in South America. Her involvement in this movement is reflected here not only in the traditional instruments used in the recording, but also in the writing style of some of the tunes, which reflects the work of Chilean rural poets. Influences from far beyond Chile are at play in Piel de Aceituna as well, which makes this collection even spicier. The opening track "Sud Americano" melds the evocative sound of the quena (an end-blown flute) with an unmistakable reggae backbeat. Parisian cabaret meets Latin romanticism on Montalvo's beautifully realized cover of Jacques Brel's "La Cancion de los Amantes" (The Lovers' Song). Montalvo concludes this fine CD with her composition "Mal Que Mata" (Hurt That Kills), a rousing fiesta of a song that celebrates, "Lo que es el amor," or "What Love Is."