Magdalena Matthey: the Next Violeta Parra?

With a startlingly low, sexy voice, petite Santiaguina Magdalena Matthey took the stage on a Friday night in late April. Wearing a vest and with a prominent blonde streak in her unruly hair, all eyes were fixated on the singer-songwriter in the intimate bar El Clan.

itemId=7249 Photo courtesy Kyle Weaver

Matthey opened strongly with “A Capella,” from her album Del Otro Lado, without any help from her band. Her voice lowered and wavered with practiced ease, paving the way for her trio of backing musicians, Sebastian Almarza on keyboard, Roberto Lopez on bass and Sergio “Tilo” Gonzalez on drums, to start playing.

itemId=7301 Photo courtesy Kyle Weaver

The stage was lit up by a futuristic laser show, a series of distracting red and green dots and flashes scanning across the stage and the audience.

El Clan was by no means packed, but Matthey received a modest turnout of devoted fans. Some stood shoulder-to-shoulder in front of the bar, while others sipped drinks at their tables as they watched. Groups of women sang along to the lyrics as they gazed adoringly at Matthey, partners swayed to the beat as they smoked cigarettes and the sounds of laughter and Matthey’s sultry voice overlapped. Tables of patrons looked up from their pisco sours and beers to appreciate the subtle harmonizing at the stage in front of them.

The audience swayed and lip-synched along to the jazzy, almost bossa-nova hits like “María,” “Mariposas” and the catchy “Bartolo.” Matthey, a one-time Viña del Mar Festival performer, belted out songs from her past albums and was perfectly on-key as her fans whistled, shouted and sang along.

itemId=7303 Photo courtesy Kyle Weaver

Her small feet moved in rhythmic, salsa steps throughout the set with one hand on the mic and a calm smile on her face as she moved back and forth in time. Her energy was infectious and her soulful voice carried across the club to enchant even the bartender, who was singing along.

Matthey’s latest CD, Afuera, won the Premio Altazor award from her Latin-musician peers. She has the strong, bold and beautiful voice, melodic guitar and deep, sad lyrics to be “the next Violeta Parra,” (as her website claims) however she lacks the soul and seems too happy to sing such woeful songs to warrant this title.

Despite this, she does retain catchy, simple and beautiful composition and a strong voice paired with familiar, melodic guitar (similar to Parra) that make her albums perfect for an introspective afternoon.

Magdalena Matthey and Trio will be performing at Club Thelonious in Bellavista on July 2, 2009.

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