Live: Totó la Momposina at St. George’s Bristol

Colombia's folk music legend Totó la Momposina returned to St. George's Bristol last night for a sold-out show, a decade and a half after her last performance at the venue. She was joined by an extended band which featured singers, dancers and musicians from local schools.

The performance was the culmination of a project supported by the WOMAD Foundation which brought together pupils of diverse backgrounds —many from families of asylum seekers— with Totó la Momposina and the AMJ Collective, whose music reflects their mixed Anglo/Afro/Caribbean heritage. The project comprised a series of workshops exploring migration through voice, music and dance sessions. From soulful acapella to fiery percussion, the band delivered an energetic and moving show.

Totó addresses a packed audience at St. George's. Photo credit: York Tillyer.

Totó walked on stage to rapturous applause from the audience, who came ready to sing along and dance. The crowd listened intently as she set the scene for the show by speaking in Spanish about her lifelong relationship with the folk music of her home in Colombia, a tradition which is informed and inspired by a rich cultural mix combining elements from African, Native Indian and Spanish cultures. “Music that is sold doesn’t last very long,” she said, “but the music of my ancestors will last forever— and this is the music we bring to you tonight.” And with affirmative cheers from the audience, the show began.

Totó with her granddaughters Maria Del Mar and Oriana, and her daughter Euridice. Photo credit: York Tillyer

The singer performed many of her well-known songs, including ‘El Pescador’ and ‘Adios Fulana’ which feature on her albums La Candela Viva and Tambolero. Her usual line-up of tambores drummers, brass, and backing vocals by her daughter and granddaughters was wonderfully enhanced by a youth choir and instrument ensemble from the local schools.

The remarkable strength of the 78-year-old’s voice was clear in her performance of ‘Mohana’, an ode to the legendary “Mother of the Water”, which she described as a very sacred song.

Totó and local schoolchildren prepare for Thursday night's concert:

Totó la Momposina in Paris: a Colombian refugee becomes a star

How the Colombian musical icon’s career blossomed in the 70s and 80s in France


Tuesday night’s extraordinary World Cup game between England and Colombia did not go unmentioned, with a local school boy slipping in a ‘thank you’ to Colombia for letting England win the penalty shoot-out during his introduction to one of the songs.

The stage was animated throughout the whole show, with the guest performers demonstrating the efforts of their dance workshops with Totó and her band. She and the many members on stage descended on the audience for a rousing finale, and after a standing ovation and encore chants, Totó returned to the stage to close the night with a powerful, heartfelt acappella piece.

Totó and her band have a limited run of shows in Europe this summer— click here for full details. She has also just released a collection of her best known songs on the vinyl compilation La Verdolaga.

Featured Release

  • Tambolero

    Totó la Momposina

    Released 25 June 2015

    You don't normally get the chance to go back in time and reimagine a classic album like La Candela Viva but creating Tambolero has been a challenge and a delight. It’s become a celebration of Totó's career: six decades dedicated to preserving, researching and developing an ancestral tradition, the identity of a people, passed down through the generations. 

By Oran Mullan

Main image credit: York Tillyer.

Published on Fri, 06 July 18

Further reading

The Breath announce new album and reveal first new song

The Breath have announced details of a new album, Land of My Other, ten original tracks of raw, gorg...

Rokia Koné & Jacknife Lee share brand new song ‘Fanga’

Following the success of their 2022 collaboration album BAMANAN, Rokia Koné & Jacknife Lee return w...

Africa comes to Real World: revisiting albums by six legendary artists

Jane Cornwell explores our new reissue series 'Africa Sessions at Real World'.

Sheila Chandra: The pursuit of radical vocal expression

Sheila's trilogy of albums for Real World is being re-issued on CD, and on vinyl for the first time.