Totó La Momposina y sus Tambores


Totó La Momposina is one of Colombia's leading voices. Backed by musicians who both make and play traditional instruments the group play the folk music of the Mompos Falls in the Atlantic coastal region of Colombia from where they originate. Totó's work has come to be recognised internationally; in 1982 the group was part of the Colombian delegation attending Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Nobel Prize winning ceremony in Stockholm.

Totó has devoted her time to passing on her knowledge of these traditions to others, forming the group in 1968 when she was researching Colombian folk music. Without such enormous efforts to preserve these traditional folk forms they face extinction as the Colombian record industry becomes increasingly commercialised.

The group comprises four musicians who play traditional percussion instruments: the tambor hembra, similar to African drums, hollowed out from a tree trunk, with the 'head' cut from the skin of a calf or goat. The tambor llamador, a smaller version of the tambor hembra, which keeps a steady beat. The guacho, a tubular rattle made with bamboo or tin and filled with dried seeds. The flute de millo, a small flute made from a stalk of wild millet.

From this highly percussive foundation their repertoire also incorporates traditional dances, including the Cumbia which embraces ritualistic elements from the effervescent cultural meltingpot of Colombian society. Other dances, such as Danza de Negro, recall African traditions.