EVERYTHING that is good about Melbourne’s creative arts space comes alive and is put to voice with its independent cabaret scene.

There are few places around the world you’d find something that is quite so expressive and transportive as the vocal work of some of the creatives that call the city home. Take one Mama Alto for example, as well as the underground musicality of the city and the power of it truly comes to light.

Mama Alto is a genderqueer femme-identifying person of colour who sings with impressive range of love to battle the challenges of queer identity.

She works best in keeping the lines of gender and sexuality overall and hers specifically, blurred. It allows her talents with a microphone to shine through, putting her work front-and-centre as she carves a name for herself.

The onstage persona of the artist Benny Dimas, Mama Alto is a countertenor by talent and profession and sets a refreshing standard in entertainment, creativity and artistry. Her emphasis resides in the quality of her work, the strength and power in her independence and messaging and confidence in her femme-ness.

“Opening my mouth and singing with my voice is an act of transgression against traditional gendered vocal roles, and indeed, of traditional expectations of gender constructed by society,” she said.

Mama Alto’s love for her work surmounts more than an insatiable hunger for glory or recognition. Her beguiling performances are as expressive as they are talented and they’re said to be something that transcends mere singing. It all in some way harks back to her inspirations and influences, allowing a depth of interpretation that she has made her own.

(PHOTO: Trent Pace Photography)

(PHOTO: Trent Pace Photography)

The singer draws on motivation from the days of old vintage torch singers, the likes of Edith Piaf and Billie Holiday, celebrating the history of blues and cabaret through her angelic voice.

Music of unrequited love and lamentation is something that cracks the diva façade and onstage presence of Mama Alto. It keeps her in a more contemporary LGBTI context, while singing subject matter that still strikes a chord with her audiences.

That diva-esque presence is something Mama Alto also prides herself on. She has worked to not only make it her own, but challenge what it means to many.

“The voice of Mama Alto is a voice that defies gender, the female voice of the contralto or mezzo-soprano within the body of what is male,” she said.

The limelight has only recently made its way onto Mama Alto. Through performances at the Melbourne Recital Centre, singing as a featured performer in the Chamaco 2015 award-winning Finucane & Smith tour to the Havana International Theatre Festival in Cuba, and garnering a nomination for Artist of the Year at the GLOBE LGBTI awards 2015, the singer has been kept busy.

Currently working on upcoming performances around Australia, Mama Alto is a voice we will only be hearing louder and louder.

For details about Mama Alto’s future performances visit www.mamaalto.com/gigs.

James Banham is the editor of THE F, a lifestyle and fashion website. Visit www.the-f.com.au. You can also follow him on Instagram and Twitter.


**This article was first published in the April edition of the Star Observer, which is available now. Click here to find out where you can grab a copy in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional/coastal areas.

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