On "Women of Latin America," a recent album from world-music compiler Putumayo, Toto la Momposina, Mariana Montalvo and Belo Velloso are just three of 11 voices, allotted a single song each. Friday night at Lisner Auditorium, where they were billed as "Latinas: Women of Latin America," the three singers revealed themselves as individual stylists, each combining African, Iberian and Native American influences in her own manner.
Accompanied by two guitarists and a drummer, Velloso opened the show with a pleasant, if brief, selection of strolling Brazilian tunes. Her music showed significantly less range than that of her uncle, eclectic singer-songwriter Caetano Veloso, but then she's a comparative newcomer, and was given only 20 minutes to introduce herself.
Montalvo, who followed with a slightly longer set, is a Chilean exile who's lived in France for 30 years. The singer-guitarist's mode was jazzier, suggesting a Parisian influence. Yet the interplay between her guitar and Pierre Bluteau's sounded entirely Latin American, while the plaintive countermelodies of Olivier Ombredane's flute evoked Andean traditional music.
Although la Momposina's song on the Putumayo sampler represents her as just another Latin balladeer, this tour's organizers know better. Backed by a heavily percussive six-man band, the Colombian vocalist quickly demonstrated why she was the headliner. La Momposina performed odes to her native land and continent, but Africa was never absent from her exuberant singing and dancing. Ranging from a cappella numbers to expansively polyrhythmic passages, la Momposina's 45-minute set was so spirited that it seemed to last barely longer than Velloso's.
-- Mark Jenkins