Valentina Montoya Martínez was born in Chile, the daughter of a former political prisoner and a political refugee. Her exiled family arrived in Britain in 1977. She grew up surrounded by the folk music of her native land – a central part of her life in Britain and often the focal point of a small community of exiles. She began to accompany her own singing on guitar when she was twelve, and soon began performing at Chilean cultural events. She also developed a love of Argentine tango, from the many recordings her mother had brought over from Chile. Her vocal training, she says, ‘was the struggle for survival in a foreign land, the fight against cultural invisibility and the love of my people and our musical traditions’.
She graduated in Comparative American Studies from Warwick University in 1994. She then spent two years teaching English and Drama at the University of Puebla in Mexico, as well as singing in local venues and cafes. On her return to the UK she undertook a master’s degree on the work of Víctor Jara, one of her main inspirations, and then set off for Edinburgh, where she met David Russell, an accomplished Scottish guitarist and sound engineer. Together they formed their folk band ‘Valentina and Voces Del Sur’ and made their debut at the legendary old Bongo Club in Edinburgh, where a chance encounter with the Scottish ensemble Mr McFall’s Chamber led to the beginning of an ongoing and fruitful collaboration singing tango. To date, Valentina and Voces Del Sur’s performances include numerous venues and festivals in the UK, Portugal, Chile and Mexico. The band also supported Eliades Ochoa on his only Scottish date at the Edinburgh Picture House. Valentina and David will be releasing their band’s next album, A Little Book of Love and Exile, in the spring of 2013 on the Massive Productions label in Greece. It was recorded in Athens and on the island of Ikaria and was produced by Greek composer Vangelis Fampas, who also plays on, and wrote a song for, the album.