STEREOTYPES are everywhere, so naturally the music world has its fair share. Black Americans perform rhythm and blues, Chinese artists do Canto-pop and Filipino musicians are lounge bar entertainers. No wonder then that Angelita Li and Beverly Soto, vocalists for JJ's new resident band Soto, are raising some eyebrows. Both have voices that could rival some of today's chart-topping American R&B divas. 'A lot of people have come up to me and asked how I can sing like that. Especially since I'm tiny,' said Li of her ability to belt out Chaka Khan's Sweet Thing. For the vocalist, born in Hong Kong of Malaysian-Filipino and Chinese descent, her vocal style came naturally. 'I just love that music. I've been singing these songs since I was a kid.' Li's parents - her father is a pianist and her mother a singer - exposed her to R&B and jazz at an early age. For Philippines-born Beverly, the story is similar. Her musician father, who brought her to Hong Kong in 1976, introduced her to Latin American rhythms when she was a child. Like Li, she has encountered a few shocked audience members. 'Some people ask: 'Where did you get that voice from? That little tiny body, where did you get that R&B voice?' . . . I have to explain that it runs in the family,' she said. According to band leader Bruce Soto (vocals, guitar and bongos), he was even advised against hiring Asian singers for the Latino band. 'At first, a lot of our business advisers said 'keep it Latin'. And coming here, it was something we thought about. They [clubs] want to hire American bands and they forget that Americans are all nationalities.' The Soto brothers, Bruce and Ross, who formed the band when they were children, were not the first to notice Li's and Beverly's talent. As a teenager, Li met Beverly when they were both performing as backup vocalists for local music and film star Maria Cordero. Beverly has been with the band since 1994 after meeting them during their stint at the New World's Catwalk nightclub. Although she enjoys her work, she admits there were plenty of perks that came with working with Cordero, which she did from 1987 to 1989. 'Wherever she had to go, she brought us with her. That was way easier than this and more money. They were 45-minute shows and we were getting a lot of money just for backup. Here, doing this nightly is very exhausting.' This has also been a new experience for Li, who has only been playing with Soto for the past three months. Since her start in the music industry aged nine, when she performed jingles, she has managed to avoid much of the commercial repertoire included in Soto's act. Her career has included occasional performances as backup vocalist for Beyond. During her five years in Thailand, she appeared on four albums, including her own Eyes Of Love. She also appears on the album, Misty, of local jazz artist Eugene Pao. 'This is my first time playing top 40. It's very interesting, I've learned a lot. It's a totally different dimension from where I've been, I've always done jazz. There's a lot of tolerance involved, there are some songs that I really don't like, like the real disco stuff,' she said. Although band members - Bruce, Ross on bass and bongos; Dennis Jimenez on timbales and bongos; Stan Ganapolsky on keyboards - all sing, Li and Beverly are very much in the limelight. With their striking voices, form-fitting clothing and the pair of them doing the salsa across stage, they expect to be the targets of some extra attention. 'They wouldn't be men if they didn't gawk, and I wouldn't be a woman if they didn't find anything interesting about me. I just hope it's my talent more than my looks and my body. But I don't mind . . . my husband does,' said Beverly, who married Ross in 1996. The band, rounded out by Robert Lopez on drums, began in the family backyard. 'We were five and six years old putting on our own backyard concerts, charging 25 cents to get in,' said Ross. As a result of playing across Asia for the past five years, with stints in Bangkok, Bombay and Beijing, the group has developed an enormously diverse repertoire. During the course of the night you will hear everything from Will Smith's Getting' Jiggy With It to Fleetwood Mac's Black Magic Woman and TLC's Creep, and plenty of Latin American music. 'The music has changed a lot. The last time I was here they were really into techno stuff. It seems people are more accepting of the Latin rhythms, they enjoy it a little more.' During their three-month stint at JJ's, Soto plan to use their spare time to put together original work for an album. They have already had a taste of commercial success. Their version of Easy, a reggae version of the Commodores' classic, went to number one in Hawaii, Guam and Saipan. Put together when they were performing in Guam, Tommy Chong, of comedy duo Cheech and Chong, asked the group to include the track on his reggae compilation. Bruce, unlike many cover musicians, had no qualms admitting the nightly job playing other people's music can get tiresome. 'Yes, it gets frustrating,' he stressed, 'especially when all of my people who have worked with the band have gone on to be very successful on their own.' A former Soto vocalist is singing backup for Janet Jackson, another is part of the successful 1980s band Expose, and a former drummer is playing with New Edition. 'When you see that it does get frustrating,' he said. As a result, they are thankful to have this time to work on their music. 'This is all preparation for what we have ahead,' said Bruce. Soto at JJ's, Grand Hyatt Hotel, 1 Harbour Road, Wan Chai, until November 28. Monday to Friday 9.45pm, Saturday 10pm. Cover charge $100 Monday to Thursday, $200 Friday and Saturday.