La Candela Viva

Totó La Momposina y sus Tambores, 1993

Totó represents the fourth generation of her family to make music. A powerful sense of continuity binds together her extended family, friends and the community (el pueblo). The past is ever present and the possibilities of the future are always in view. In Totó’s case, her son and daughters are following in her footsteps as members of her group, while the sixth generation is already underway in her grandchildren.

Totó’s group itself function like a family unit - from Batata, in his seventies, to granddaughter Maria del Mar. Each member has their place but the generations are not separated and isolated as in many Western societies. Phil Ramone, a veteran in the pop industry and producer of three tracks on the group’s first album with Real World, picked up on the rapport that is their strength: “Totó, in herself, is so strong spiritually and mentally. She gives you tremendous vibes of affection and love. Then you see a chemistry between the musicians: there is an intimacy that goes on in their eyes. Somehow something happens, seemingly unrehearsed, where a smile, a genuine smile, comes out of one of them and then the next, and a pattern develops. I suspect there is a great depth in what they’re communicating.”

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).” Over the years, in fact, a different word has evolved from folclor (or folklore) - conflor, literally “with flowers”.

This record presents three distinct musical styles, Tambores, Sextetos and Gaitas. The music is an expression of a culture that has its origins in Africa (via the slaves brought to work in the Caribbean), Spain (through the influence of the invading colonists) and from the indigenous Indian population of the Atlantic coastal region of Colombia. The rhythms were originally, and still are, played at religious festivals, ritual ceremonies and carnivals. Some of the rhythms, such as the cumbia, have been used in popular song since the 1940s.

Reviews

  • ...she's a majestic, powerful and versatile singer...with sturdy Spanish-influenced ballads and dance songs. The Guardian (UK)
  • '...the exciting bass-driven sound of Columbia's superstar...combines explosive vocals with brass and bass.' Diva (UK)
  • 'She's a vivacious musical matriarch, a local legend...with Toto's instinct for explosive vocal lines, which are rhythmically driven, this is a fine, unplugged set.' Vox (UK)
  • Stunning big-time debut... Literally, tub-thumpingly brilliant. Time Out (UK)
  • Toto has a rich, robust voice... ...that places her comfortably in the company of the Latin mega-stars, Celia Cruz and Celina Gonzalez... Blue Juice (1993) (UK)
  • Toto is an impressive singer with a flare for the theatrical...you’ll be drawn into her world by the strength of a great voice. November 1993 Rock ‘n’ Reel (UK)