Totó la Momposina

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The Original Queen of Cumbia Returns

A magnificent performer, Totó La Momposina is a charismatic living legend of Afro-Colombian song, the original ‘Queen of Cumbia’ whose entire life has been dedicated to representing the music of her country’s Caribbean coastline. A mix of African, indigenous Indian and Spanish cultures gave the region the rich musical traditions which Totó has been instrumental in keeping alive and taking to international audiences. Cumbia is the percussive style characterised by off-beat polyrhythms which exploded across Latin America and beyond; today it is one of the most influential and best-loved musical exports of the region. Toto’s music has touched artists far and wide, from Timbaland (his track ‘Indian Flute’ samples Toto’s Curura) to Manu Chao (who borrowed a chorus from La Verdolaga) to Michel Cleis’ 2009 cumbia-house mega hit La Mezcla (the Ibiza dance track of the summer samples vocals and tambores from El Pescador).

Toto’s brand new album La Bodega captures all the energy and range of her phenomenal career so far. With Afro-Colombian percussion, blazing horns, traditional gaita flutes and rippling guitar, this upbeat set of new compositions and vintage classics, from rolling cumbias to the irresistible porro, gives us Totó La Momposina at her rootsy sparkling best.

Hailing from Talaigua, a tiny village on the banks of the mighty Magdalena River, Totó was born into a family of musicians spanning five generations. The household lived with the musical traditions of ‘la costa’ and she learned to sing and dance as a child. As a teenager, she traveled from village to village researching their various rhythms and dances and studying the art of the cantadora – the gifted women at the heart of rural cultural life.

Later, when civil war forced Totó’s family to flee to the capital Bogotá, her mother turned their home into a sanctuary for the coastal musical traditions such as cumbia, bullerenge, and mapale which were in danger of being lost. Since the 1960s when Totó emerged as a popular singer, these rhythms have formed the core of a vast repertoire which also embraces other Latin American traditions such as Cuban son, guaracha and bolero. She has toured internationally since the 1970s and in 1982 accompanied Gabriel Garcia Marquez to Stockholm to perform at his Nobel prize ceremony. In the early 1990s her global fame was cemented by a WOMAD tour across three continents and the release of La Candela Viva, the first of many acclaimed albums. In 2006 she was presented with the WOMEX Lifetime Achievement Award for her extraordinary contribution to world music. A dynamic 71 year old, Totó continues to work tirelessly to promote the music of her homeland, driven by passion and the simple joy of performance.

“A cantadora belongs to the people!” Totó exclaims. “She is a woman who belongs to the space around her and who is true to her roots...but she is born with the gift of singing, the gift of summoning people.” Through the power of her voice and creative spontaneity, Totó La Momposina has used this gift to summon people from all over the world, to hear the evocative village music of her roots, and celebrate a rich traditional legacy with one of the true giants of Latin American music.


What Evora is to Cape Verde, Toto La Momposina is to Colombia. The styles couldn't be further apart. I remember Evora performing, stopping mid-song to light a cigarette and sit on a chair, smoking and gazing out into the crowd, a drink of brandy or rum in her hand, a queen and rightfully so. La Momposina is a firecracker. She runs out to stage a cappella and stops the hearts of everyone. Her musicians appear, she weaves between them, half hyper child, half humble diva, fully engaging. Everyone in the room sits dumbstruck, enamored, in love with woman and music. La Momposina invites all the aspects of her country -- good, bad, otherwise -- and makes a party of them, not without knowledge, not without understanding. She sees it all; she just chooses to dance in spite of tragedy, a beautiful message to people of all places and times
(Huffington Post)

...This is the legendary Toto La Momposina's home turf, the land and people who inspired her to carry the musical torch of five generations of ancestors, and develop their traditions, pursuing her passionate love for Colombia's long neglected and disdained Afro-indigenous music with dogged determination in her native land, in Europe, and now worldwide...
(All About Jazz)

...We have to hand it to Colombia: Some of the most popular Latin singers today hail from the South American nation, including pop/rock superstars Juanes and Shakira, Its most emblematic artist is the legendary Afro-Caribbean singer and dancer Totó La Momposina
(The Black Urban Times)

13 peoples on tour (Totó + 9 musicians + 3)