B i o g r a p h y

Lourdes Pérez  •  short bio

Puerto Rican-born composer, poet, decimista, oral historian, vocalist and guitarist Lourdes Pérez  is known for her “achingly beautiful contralto voice” and her ability to write emotionally rich songs about people, places, history and ideals. Often called "one of the finest Latin American vocalists and songwriters,” Pérez has performed internationally from war zones to performing arts centers and has collaborated with diverse artists across language and genre for 26 years.  In Canada critics dubbed her "the Edith Piaf" of the Spanish language. 

 

In the early 90's when she began touring, Pérez was one of the only out, Latina lesbians and she performed only in Spanish. Through her visibility and her music, she occupied spaces that didn't often overlap, or include people like her, and quietly opened many paths along the way.

 

In 2006, she was one of the first five composers (and the only woman) to be awarded the unrestricted, United States Artist fellowship for Music.  Published works include 11 CDs, scores and soundtracks for dance, theater and film and two illustrated, oral history books with original music CDs.

 

 

Lourdes Pérez  •  full bio

 

Lourdes Perez (b. 1961 San Sebastian, Puerto Rico) is a prolific contemporary recording artist, songwriter, composer, arranger, poet, vocalist and guitarist. She is also one of few female decimistas (writers of décima, a specialized form of Spanish poetry). Lourdes’ music – often conjuring comparisons to the soulful world music genres of cante jondo, morna and fado – draws from her jíbara (Puerto Rican mountain) roots and a socially conscious genre of Spanish/pan-Latin American music called nueva trova or nueva canción.

 

Considered by many to be “among the great Latin American female vocalists” and songwriters, Lourdes Pérez has performed duets onstage with numerous legendary and diverse artists, from Argentinean singer Mercedes Sosa and Mexican master decimista Guillermo Velázquez to Canadian pop artist Jane Siberry and Lebanese singer-songwriter, May Nasr. Acclaimed for her “ability to transcend language…with her achingly beautiful contralto voice,” she has been described by music critic Michael Corcoran as “Edith Piaf fronting the Gypsy Kings.” Wielding a startling combination of power and fragility within the same voice, her varied audiences often find themselves crying without necessarily understanding a word.

 

In the early 90's when she began touring, Pérez was one of the only out, Latina lesbians and she performed (performs) only in Spanish. Through her visibility and her music, she occupied spaces that didn't often overlap, or include people like her, and quietly opened many paths along the way.

 

In December, 2006 Lourdes Pérez became one of the first 50 artists to be named as a United States Artists Fellow and was awarded a $50,000 unrestricted grant in honor of her contribution to Music. Through anonymous nomination and selection by peers and industry leaders, this fellowship recognizes the “finest living artists in the country” and Lourdes was one of 5 musicians (and the only woman musician) to be so honored. Also in 2006, her song, Paloma Urbana (Urban Dove) won Best Latin Song in the Just Plain Folks Music Awards. She is featured in the 2005 Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in the United States (Oxford Press) and in World Music: The Basics by Richard Nidel (2005), as well as one of 1000 performers in the world profiled in the 2000 Music Hound World Essential Album Guide.

 

Independent, theatrical, down-to-earth and somewhat nomadic, Lourdes has devoted her work to promoting human rights and dignity around the globe. In 1996, Pérez was invited to Chiapas by the Zapatista movement as part of an international delegation. Pérez presented her music in the indigenous communities of Oventic and the Lacandona jungle. In 1997, Pérez co-founded the organization OCTAAV (Organization of Concerned Texas Artists and Activists for Vieques), participating in events in Texas and on the island of Vieques as part of the (eventually successful) international effort to remove the United States Navy from the island. In those years, a song that Pérez wrote, “Sierra Blanca,” was used as part of a successful grassroots campaign against turning a low-income Mexican American community on the Texas-Mexico border into nuclear waste dumping grounds.

 

Lourdes' solo album, “Este Filo" is dedicated to Carmen Jiménez "Doña Titin," wife of Rafael Cancel Miranda and a heroine of the struggle for the dignity and sovereignty of Puerto Rico. Her concert at a Palestinian refugee camp in Bethlehem in 2002 prompted her Spanish translation of the beloved Arabic song by Ahmad Kaboor/Tawfeeq Zayad, "Unadeekum (Te llamo). The song was first released as a single, then on her CD, Este Filo. She had the honor of recording the song with Lebanese singer, May Nasr and the beloved writer of the song, Ahmad Kaboor.  In 2011 Pérez and Nasr, performed a duet concert at the historic Castillo de Gibralfaro in Málaga, Spain. Their beautiful collaboration continued and they released a full-length album, Written in Water (in Spanish and Arabic) in 2016. One of the songs on the album, “The Road” (lyrics: Lana Aoude/ music: Lou M. Salloum) was #4 on the Top 20 Alternative/Indie Arabic Songs of 2016. (KZSU Stanford, hosted by Dr. Ramzi Salti) and the full review of the CD called it “a masterpiece…you can't help but be moved by this CD even if you don't speak either language.”

Pérez is frequently asked to write or improvise tributes to other artists, human rights leaders and elders, such as Chicana scholar Gloria Anzaldúa, Puerto Rican nationalist centenarian Isabel Rosado and disappeared Mayan resistance leader Efraín Bámaca Velásquez ("Comandante Everardo"). Pérez recently provided contextual information on Puerto Rican poetry for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's memoir, My Beloved World (2013). 

 

Her discography includes 11 albums, a full length film score, a short film score, 2 modern dance scores, a theater score and numerous individual tributes, while several of her songs appear in films, compilations and anthologies.

 

She is the co-author and composer of Dulce Vigilante: Remembranzas de la Región Oeste de Puerto Rico, (an illustrated book and music project with her mother, oral historian Carmen I. Cruz and her niece, visual artist Andrea María Carnaval), which was released on December 20, 2014 in Puerto Rico. Dulce Vigilante was awarded a $10,000 grant from NALAC, the National Association of Latino Arts & Culture. Pérez turned 11 of her mother's stories into songs and invited two treasures of Puerto Rico to record with her: her younger sister, vocalist-songwriter Miriam Pérez and one of the primary ambassadors of Puerto Rican folkloric music, Tony Mapeyé. The book and CD were reviewed in detail by Gabriela Ortiz Díaz for the Fundación Nacional para la Cultura Popular de Puerto Rico.

Currently, Pérez is completing a similar project working with a group of elders from the historic, Mexican Westside of San Antonio, collecting their oral histories and turning them into songs and a book that will include a CD of the original songs based on their stories from the 1930's-50's. For this project, Pérez invited 20 illustrious musicians from the same Westside (including  Flaco Jiménez, Santiago Jiménez, Jr., Eva Ybarra, Tish Hinojosa, Henry Gómez, Al Gómez, "Sauce" González, Las Tesoros and more) to perform the music. A multimedia performance of the work, choreographed by dancers, Leticia Sánchez-Retamozo and Álvaro Duarte and featuring live performance by the elders was staged in April and July of this year. The event celebrating the release of the book & CD, Still Here: Homenaje al Westside de San Antonio will take place on November 11, 2018 in San Antonio, Texas and will include the multimedia performance, book signing and an after party with live music by some of the legendary performers featured on the CD. This project was commissioned by Esperanza Peace & Justice Center.

 

She is also preparing to publish a book of poetry, Poesía#365 compiling the new poems and lyrics of her songs and English translations that she posted daily on social media throughout 2017.

 

Together with her wife and artistic collaborator, Annette D’Armata, since 1991, Pérez has lived in Puerto Rico, California, Alaska, Arizona, Mexico, Spain and Texas.

 

After the devastation of Hurricane Maria, Pérez and D’Armata started Las Hormigas Boricuas. This small group provided satellite telephones, water filters and basic necessities directly to community organizers in Puerto Rico.  On International Women's Day 2018, they launched Radio VoxFem, a pilot podcast on multiple platforms that aims to find and spotlight women singer-songwriters from every nation and occupied territory on earth. (VoxFem.org)

P U B L I S H E D W O R K 

Most albums and singles were recorded, mixed and mastered at Blue Cat Studios in San Antonio, Texas by Joe Treviño.

 

#11 Still Here: Homenaje al Westside de San Antonio, book and musical CD, lyrics and compositions by Lourdes Pérez and featuring 21 guest musicians from the historic West Side of San Antonio including Flaco Jiménez, Santiago Jiménez, Jr., Eva Ybarra, Tish Hinojosa, more (Esperanza Center/Chee Wee House), to be released November 2018.

 

#10 Al Caer la Tarde, Lourdes Pérez and Eva Ybarra, 6 track EP (Chee Wee Records, 2016)

 

#9 Written in Water, Lourdes Pérez and May Nasr (duet CD in Spanish and Arabic) with special guest Ahmad Kaabour (Chee Wee Records, 2016)

 

#8 Dulce Vigilante: Remembranzas de la Región Oeste de Puerto Rico, Illustrated book and music CD, (Chee Wee House, 2015)

 

COLLECTION: 20 Años, Boxed collection of works from 1994 -2014, includes 8 CDs (Chee Wee Records, 2014)

 

SINGLE: Te Llamo (Unadikum) with May Nasr and guest of honor, Ahmad Kaabour (Chee Wee 2011), 3 song single 

 

#7 En vivo: Lourdes Perez con Miriam Perez (Chee Wee 2007)

 

#6 Este Filo (Chee Wee 2005)

 

#5 Azúl y Serena (Chee Wee 2003), commissioned composition, recorded with the Dama de Noche Orchestra

 

#4 Pájaros de otro canto (Chee Wee 2003), commissioned soundtrack for the film, “¿Adónde Fue Juan José?” (for which she composed the score and is the principal contributing artist) 

 

#3 Selections from Tres Oraciones (Chee Wee 2002) 

 

#2 Vestigios (Vivavoce Records-1997) 

 

#1 Recuerdate Por Mi (Chee Wee 1994)

 

CASSETTE: Lourdes Pérez (Chee Wee, 1992)

 

 

 

Compilations:

2009 The Puerto Rican Freedom Album (Welfare Poets) 

 

2006 La Nueva Escuela CD 

 

1998 Manuel's Womens Festival Compilation II CD

 

Full length scores: 

Azul y Serena (multimedia tribute concert; commissioned by Guadalupe Cultural Arts for unveiling of Jesse Treviño’s 4 story tile sculpture of La Virgen de Guadalupe)

 

Santuarios (modern/folkloric dance; collaboration with Serafín Aponte Nájera)  

 

El Hilo Mágico (full length film; Say Sí)

 

The Leaf Storm (modern dance/theater; collaboration with Sharir+Bustamante Dance Company)

 

conflama (word opera, theater; written by Sharon Bridgforth, staged by Laurie Carlos) 

 

Adonde Fue Juan Jose (full length film)

 

Marejada (multimedia, oral history from Vieques, Puerto Rico)

 

Lourdes’ work also appears in: 

Altar: Cruzando Fronteras, Building Bridges (documentary on the life of Gloria Anzaldúa by Paola Zaccharia)

When (short film by Jen Tsai)

Entre Sillas (CD, Somos Tres)

Lil Ghaly (CD, May Nasr)

 

For more information, contact Lorena Carbonara: encantoproductions@gmail.com.

Photo by Ricky Flores, 1986

© 2018 by Jennifer Davis.