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'.
The international success of 'La Candela Viva', and the following two albums 'Carmelina' in 1995 and 'Pacantó' in 1999 (MTM/Colombia), would ignite Totó's career in Colombia and finally see her recognized as a star in her own country.
While their repertoire could easily be categorised as "Colombian folklore", Totó adamantly defines it in different terms: "While I respect the word 'folklore', to me it means something that's dead - in a museum. Traditional music, or the music from the old days, is still alive: many people are working with it and it's always evolving. The people of the pueblo don't know about 'folklore'. They say música antigua or música de antes (from before)."
The music has continued to endure, including being routinely sampled by the world of dance and hip-hop (Michel Cleis, Da R3volution and Timbaland, to name but a few). It was during the search for the original master tapes to find the parts for a Michel Cleis dance track that producer (and now son-in-law of Totó) John Hollis discovered something rather remarkable.
Amongst the original 2" master tapes was a treasure trove of material: some 40 takes of 20 different songs. Material all involved had forgotten existed, until then. Not only was there a wealth of recorded material from the 'La Candela Viva' sessions that didn't make the original album there were also a number of previously unreleased songs too.
To restore the analogue tapes which would otherwise slowly deteriorate, the first job was to bake them (literally!) to remove any moisture that had accumulated, making them playable again. The recordings could then be digitised to work with modern technology. A process of reassessing all the different versions and new songs, re-editing and over-dubbing began.
"At this point it occurred to me that Totó's granddaughters would add a nice texture to some of the chorus lines," explains John. Totó happily agreed: "Claro, ellos son mis choristas [of course, they are my backing singers]." Soon after, Maria del Mar and Oriana Melissa entered The Wood Room at Real World Studios, the very same space in which Totó and her band performed their set live 23 years earlier; Maria was present back then, a toddler at the time, and Oriana hadn't been born. "It was a surreal moment and they delivered their parts beautifully." adds John.
The result is 'Tambolero'. More than just a re-release of 'La Candela Viva' it is a genuine re-appraisal and re-imagining of the original.
'Tambolero' is in effect a new album and one in which Totó continues to reflect the experience of her native Colombia through her life and music. The two things are intertwined: the story of Totó la Momposina is truly the story of modern Colombia. It has also become a celebration of Totó's professional career, which will soon reach a landmark 60 years - six decades dedicated to preserving, researching and developing an ancestral tradition, the identity of a people, passed down through the generations.
"For me, connection with my ancestors is all important. It would be a grave situation if Colombians didn't know their musical roots because these are what bind us together. We have a wonderful country but a nation without music would be a people without identity. Our musical identity is a natural creation, evolved by the people of the countryside, inspired by the elements around them. This music is for everyone, for the world." Totó la Momposina, April 2015
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.
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It was a special night for Real World Records artists The Gloaming and 9Bach at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards last night, with both bands coming away with an award - Best Traditional Song (The Gloaming) and Best Album (9Bach).
The evening was particularly memorable for 9Bach. Not only did they pick up the coveted award of Best Album for their second album Tincian - the first Welsh act to win a Folk Award of any description - they also closed the show with a powerful performance of the song 'Ffarwel' where the band were joined on-stage by the massed voices of the Penrhyn Male Voice Choir Choir (a 50-strong male choir).
The whole awards were broadcast live on BBC Radio 2 and you can listen again to the show here.
Many congratulations to both The Gloaming and 9Bach from everyone at Real World Records, we're really proud of you both!
Available this week on Bowers & Wilkins Society of Sound is the album 'Tambolero' by long-time Real World Records artist Totó La Momposina y Sus Tambores.
Totó La Momposina's entire life has been dedicated to representing the music of Colombia's Caribbean coastline. As a singer, dancer and teacher she embodies that fertile place where Colombia's African, indigenous Indian and Spanish cultures mingle to create a unique musical tradition. Totó is not only its greatest interpreter, but a restless innovator too.
Whilst still a child civil war forced Totó to flee her home and move to the capital Bogotá. There her mother started a dance group from which Totó emerged as a promising singer in the 1960s. She began touring internationally a decade later but it wasn't until the early 1990s that her global fame was cemented by a WOMAD tour across three continents and the release of La Candela Viva on Real World Records.
In the subsequent years the music has continued to endure, and has even been routinely sampled by the world of dance and hip-hop. It was during the search for the original master tapes to find the parts for a Michel Cleis dance track that producer John Hollis discovered something rather remarkable.
Amongst the original 2" master tapes was a treasure trove of material: some 40 takes of 20 different songs. Material all involved had forgotten existed, until then. Not only was there a wealth of recorded material from the La Candela Viva sessions that didn't make the original album there were also a number of previously unheard songs too.
A process of restoring the original tapes, reassessing all the different versions and new songs, re-editing and over-dubbing began. The result is Tambolero. More than just a re-release of La Candela Viva it is a genuine re-appraisal and re-imagining of the original.
Tambolero is in effect a new album and one in which Totó La Momposina continues to reflect the experience of her native Colombia through her life and music. The two things are intertwined: the story of Totó La Momposina is truly the story of modern Colombia.
A full commercial release of 'Tambolero' will follow, on Real World Records, in the Summer of 2015.
More details on the Society of Sound release of 'Tambolero'
It's just a few days to go now until the 16th annual BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards takes place at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff, hosted by Mark Radcliffe and Julie Fowlis. The show starts at 7:30pm on Wednesday 22 April and will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 2.
We're delighted that two Real World Records artists The Gloaming and 9Bach are nominated in some of the biggest categories of the night.
Irish/American super-group The Gloaming, who's debut album last year garnered universal acclaim are nominated for three awards: Best Group, Best Original Song (for The Necklace of Wrens) and Best Traditional Track (for Samhradh Samhradh). Unfortunately, not all of the band will be able to attend the awards but long-time Real World associate and singer with The Gloaming Iarla O'Lionaird will be attending. The band really have had a stellar year with live shows in some of the most prestige venues across the world and a host of accolades for the album already received. Feels like they're only just getting started too!
Also nominated at the Awards are 9Bach. Their album 'Tincian' is nominated for Best Album, the only category that was subject to a public vote.
As well as being nominated the band will also close the show with a very special live performance.
It seems only fitting that with the Awards coming from Cardiff a Welsh band should be nominated for one of the major categories. No Welsh artist has ever won a Folk Award, so it could be a very special night indeed!
Read an interview with 9Bach from last weekend's Daily Telegraph
The band play a warm-up show for the Awards at London's King's Place on Saturday 18 April. Buy Tickets
The new album 'Welcome Joy and Welcome Sorrow' from Bristol four-piece Spiro is released today.
Recorded at Real World Studios, Jane Harbour (violin/viola), Jon Hunt (acoustic guitar/cello), Alex Vann (mandolin) and Jason Sparkes (piano accordion/piano) continue to break through the boundaries of their instruments to deliver a collection of fourteen exhilarating instrumental tracks, all imbued with a powerful emotional intensity.
The album is about being alive and the extremes of human experience that come with it. The title 'Welcome Joy and Welcome Sorrow' is taken from a Keats' poem of the same name which features the line "Dancing music, music sad, both together, sane and mad". It's pretty much a musical mission statement for the band.
"Music taps into something fundamental to us all" says Jane, "and instrumental music is particularly rewarding and meaningful as you don't know why you're feeling emotional. You've reached a place beyond words, the most amazing place that we all share. We go through life trying to connect with other people and the universe, and music is a powerful, fundamentally honest way of doing this. With instrumental music this connection is not muddled by words."
It's why Spiro are an instrumental band. Yet words are important - not only do the titles of each track inform the way the band perform it, they suggest a way into Spiro's sound world whilst offering intensely personal listening experiences.
Following what has been an incredible year for The Gloaming, we're delighted to now be able to offer the album on vinyl.
You can pre-order the LP now, which will be release on 20 April 2015.
Priced at £16.99 in the Real World Store, the LP also comes with a coupon code which will allow you to download the album in 24-bit high resolution, in your choice of Apple lossless or FLAC files.
The track listing is:
The Girl Who Broke My Heart
The Sailor's Bonnet
The Necklace of Wrens
Hunting The Squirrel
In other The Gloaming news, congratulations to the band who have been nominated for a Newcomer Award in the category of Best Newcomers Songlines Music Awards 2015.
The Songlines Awards champion brilliant music from around world so we're delighted to see The Gloaming in the shortlist, nominated by the magazine readers.
The winners will be announced in the June issue, out May 1st.
"They may be newcomers as an ensemble, but The Gloaming are something of a Celtic supergroup. Their debut as a collective is an epic achievement, brilliantly innovative and executed with masterly conviction." Songlines
Real World Records artist Ayub Ogada's track 'Ondiek' is featured in Kabir Dhanji: Darkness into Light, a short film produced by the International Development Law Organization - IDLO.
The work of Dhanji, a Kenyan photographer and Ayub Ogada fan, forms part of the exhibition In Focus: Justice and the Post-2015 Agenda. The show opened at the Palais Des Nations in Geneva in early March, to coincide with the 28th regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Presenting the work of five photographers from the developing world who are documenting stories about the rule of law and sustainable development, the exhibit is sponsored by IDLO. It explores crucial issues linked to the rule of law - from gender equality and indigenous rights to energy poverty and land tenure - and reveals the human side of justice.
The exhibition is curated by artist/activist Shahidul Alam, founder of Majority World Photo Agency, a photo agency headquartered in Dhaka that trains young photographers in developing countries and represents their work. Plans are underway for the exhibition to travel to additional cities, including The Hague, Milan, Washington DC and New York City.
"This is my most rigorous album to date. It's music of big contrasts but sonically unified with the intention to create a complete album with an intense emotional arc." - John Metcalfe
Composer, producer, classical violist, guitarist, pioneering A&R man, and arranger to A-list pop stars, John Metcalfe has always been a name worth seeking out. Part of seminal Manchester band The Durutti Column, he then set up the Factory Classical label and has subsequently not only released his own solo albums but worked as an arranger for a host of artists such as Morrissey, The Pretenders, Blur, Coldplay and not least Peter Gabriel on his 'Scratch My Back' and 'New Blood' albums.
'The Appearance of Colour' presents Metcalfe as a solo recording artist - as front man, maestro and manipulator of sounds.
To get a taster of the new album, listen to the track 'Gold, Green', available instantly when you pre order 'The Appearance of Colour' on iTunes.
Photos: Sofia Verzbolovskis
On Saturday night, 14th March, at the launch of the 7th annual Garifuna-American Heritage Month, Aurelio was guest of honour at a night celebrating his contribution to the preservation and global profile of Garifuna culture.
A Musical Tribute to Aurelio Martinez celebrated Aurelio's thirty-year career and took place at the Hostos Centre for the Arts & Culture in New York City, hosted by the Garifuna Coalition USA.
This year is the 218th anniversary of the Forcible Transfer of the Garifuna People - from St Vincent and the Grenadines to their settlement in Central America - a history marked by the yearly events of Garifuna-American Heritage Month.
New York City is home to the largest Garifuna population outside of Central America, with a community of over 200,000 people. The Garifuna are an African/Caribbean/Arawak culture who originate from Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and Nicaragua; despite their Spanish surnames, their culture and history are completely distinct from other Afro-American and Latino groups. The tribute event last weekend marked the launch of a strategy promoting Garifuna culture, creativity and sustainable development.
On the night itself Aurelio was presented with several awards, including one from Real World Records that we were delighted to be able to give. AfroPop Worldwide's Sean Barlow and Banning Eyre presented Aurelio with the honorary gift on behalf of Real World Records. Sean even greeting the crowd in Garifuna to a rapturous reception!
Over 1500 people - fans, family, friends and dignitaries - packed the Hostos Center for a night that saw traditional dance and drumming pageantry, a punta rock tribute to Aurelio and also a punta rock set from the man himself. Aurelio also took the stage to deliver a brilliant set of his own crossover music as well, which ended with all the other artists on stage in a mass sing-a-long.
An important, well-deserved and joyous night.
Many congratulations to Aurelio; here's to many more years!
Following a sell out show at the Barbican in London and three at the National Concert Hall in Dublin, The Gloaming have been announced as 2014 Meteor Choice Prize winner for Irish album of the year. The 10th annual Meteor Choice Music Prize celebrates and acknowledges the best in Irish recorded music. The Gloaming fended off competition from other nominees, including albums from Hozier, Aphex Twin, Sinead O'Connor, U2 and Damien Rice.
The band are currently out on tour in Australia with forthcoming dates also in New Zealand and Mexico.
RTE 2 Television will broadcast a one-hour highlights programme of the Meteor Choice Music Prize on Sunday March 8th at 10.50pm.