Down South America Way, Musically

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), November 19, 2004 | Go to article overview

Down South America Way, Musically


Byline: Paul Denison The Register-Guard

So whose bright idea was this, to pack up three Latina singers who were born way south of the border and send them on a cross-country U.S. tour in the fall, just as blustery weather sets in?

In a brief telephone interview in mid-October, just eight days into a 14-state, 29-concert tour, Chilean singer Mariana Montalvo already has a worrisome cold. Even so, she's enthusiastic about the tour, which will come to the Hult Center on Sunday.

This is the first time that Putumayo World Music has staged a major U.S. tour to promote one of its new albums. "Women of Latin America," released in September, is the most recent in a Putumayo series featuring female artists. Previous collections include "Women of Africa," "Women of the World: Celtic," "Women of Spirit" and "Women's Work."

"I've long felt that female artists often have exquisite voices and that they have tended to be underrepresented in the world of music," Putumayo CEO Dan Storper says.

Although much of the music in Putumayo compilations has been recorded for other labels, Storper says, "We're especially happy to find unsigned artists who are little known even in their own country and introduce them to people who appreciate their music."

So how's the Latinas tour going?

"It's very nice," Montalvo says. "I'm astonished, well not astonished, but very happy, at the reaction of the American audiences. After all, we're not very well known here. But the reception has been wonderful. I'm very happy."

Storper says the Latinas tour, created in cooperation with Columbia Artists Management, is coming to Eugene "because it's both a college town and has an interesting cultural arts scene," plus supportive local retailers and radio stations.

Putumayo uses nontraditional retail outlets along with mainstream distributors. In this area, for example, outlets include Jambo, Greater Goods, Swahili Imports, Aqua Serene and Wild Oats in addition to the more traditional Borders and CD World.

Although the Latinas tour is designed to promote the album, right now it's the other way around. The album is the tour's best promotional device.

"Women of Latin America" has 11 tracks, featuring singers from Colombia, Chile, Brazil, Peru and Mexico. Musical styles represented include Afro-Peruvian lando, nueva cancion, MPB (music popular Brasileira), Afro-Brazilian, bossa nova, ranchera and cumbia.

The French connection

Although the Latinas tour actually includes more male than female musicians, the stars are singers Toto La Momposina (Colombia), Belo Velloso (Brazil) and Montalvo, who was born in Chile but has lived in Paris since the military coup of 1973.

In Chile, Montalvo performed with a junior folkloristic group at age 8. She later took part in high school theatricals, but she was too young to perform professionally.

Montalvo now sings all over Europe. In most countries she sings only in Spanish, but she adds "one French song" to programs in her adopted country.

"India Song," Montalvo's contribution to the Putumayo Latinas album, sounds suspiciously French in its phrasing. …

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