La Candela Viva

Totó la Momposina

Released 09 September 1993

  1. Dos De Febrero
  2. Adiós Fulana
  3. El Pescador
  4. La Sombra Negra
  5. Dáme La Mano Juancho
  6. Malanga
  7. Maple
  8. Curura
  9. Chi Chi Mani
  10. La Candela Viva
  11. La Acabación

Liner notes

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. By becoming members of Totó’s group, her son and daughters are following in her footsteps, 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.”

The Making of La Candela Viva, featuring an interview with producer Phil Ramone.

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.

The album was recorded across two sessions, the first a live recording in 1991 as part of the Real World Recording Week, and the second in 1992, also at Real World Studios, under the watchful eye of legendary American producer Phil Ramone.

Not only did the album ignite Toto’s international career, but it also became a hugely influential and important record in Colombia. Added to which it is also a firm favourite with dance music producers and hip hop artists who have sampled the album extensively over the years. Swiss DJ Michel Cleis sampled the song Curura for his track Le Mezcla and it was whilst looking for the original master tapes – to find the parts for further remixes of La Mezcla – that an amazing discovery was made. There was a treasure trove of forgotten music from the original La Candela Viva sessions. Music that would finally, some 23 years later, see the light of day on the companion record to La Candela Viva entitled Tambolero.


  • She's a majestic, powerful and versatile singer ...with sturdy Spanish-influenced ballads and dance songs. The Guardian (UK)
  • Stunning big-time debut... Literally, tub-thumpingly brilliant. Time Out (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)

Further Listening

  • 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. 
  • Supernatural Love


    Released 05 February 2016

    Sidestepper have long been pioneers, taking new directions with each of their albums - and that sense of innovation and evolution continues with Supernatural Love. Very much still a dance band, but here the beats are made with hand drums, seeds and shakers, kalimbas, flutes and guitar, driving the melodic vocals.

Further reading

Real World Sessions: Totó la Momposina, 18 August 1991

A look back on The Wood Room session with producer Phil Ramone and mix engineer Richard Blair.

Totó la Momposina: The Flower that Appears and Disappears

Tatiana Spencer explores the world of Colombian folk music legend Totó la Momposina.