Singer, dancer and teacher, Totó La Momposina’s entire life has been dedicated to representing the music of Colombia’s Caribbean coastline, where African, Indigenous Indian and Spanish cultures mingle to create a unique musical tradition. ‘Tambolero’, originally released in 1993 as ‘La Candela Viva’ and regarded by many as one of Colombia’s most important albums, has been re-created and re-imagined for 2015 as part of Real World Records’ Gold series, and will be released on 29 June 2015.
About to turn 75 this summer, Totó’s and her family’s story is fascinating and compelling, and pretty much the story of modern Colombia. Totó was 8 years old when La Violencia, a ten-year period of Colombia’s civil war which is estimated to have cost the lives of at least 200,000 people, kicked off in 1948. Living in Villavicencio at the time, Totó had to tread over dead bodies in the streets on the way to school in the mornings – the fighting was often at night. Her father was imprisoned there and narrowly avoided execution, they managed to escape to Bogota and he went into hiding.
It was there that Totó la Momposina’s career started in the late 1940’s, aged 8, alongside her three sisters and one brother, as part of her mother’s dance and music group. The family had come across racism, and the group was created with the specific intention that the five siblings would be proud of their Colombian identity and Afro-Indian culture.
As Totó matured into adulthood her commitment to her culture and the traditions of its music were unfailing. She went from village to village, in all seasons, learning the traditions and songs of Colombia’s Caribbean coast. She travelled to Europe to pursue her career as a singer, to some success, never faltering in her commitment to the music.
However, it was the invitation to perform at the WOMAD Festival in the UK that led to Totó’s participation in the first Real World Recording Week and ultimately to the recording of the songs – with legendary American producer Phil Ramone at the controls in 1991 and English producer John Hollis for the follow-up sessions in 1992 – that would become ‘La Candela Viva’.
Totó la Momposina y Sus Tambores have been invited back to the WOMAD Festival where her international career started, to play for the first time at Charlton Park, on the Main Stage on Friday, 24 July 2015, at 3pm.