Tambolero

Totó La Momposina

Released 26 June 2015

  1. Adios Fulana
  2. El Pescador
  3. Chi Chi Mani
  4. Curura
  5. Gallinacito
  6. La Sombra Negra
  7. Dame La Mano Juancho
  8. La Candela Viva
  9. Dos de Febrero
  10. Malanga
  11. La Acabacion
  12. Tambolero

Liner notes

You don’t normally get the chance to go back in time and recreate an album. Building on a classic project that began 24 years ago is a challenge and a delight.

In 2009, the Swiss producer Michel Cleis released a house tune called La Mezcla, which featured two samples from Toto La Momposina’s album La Candela Viva. The track took off and his label, Cadenza, requested access to the multi-tracks so they could produce extra mixes. It was agreed and John Hollis (producer and now son-in-law of Toto) came to Real World Studios to seek out El Pescador and Curura, which meant locating the original 2 inch tapes from 1991 and 1992.

Hollis had been at those original sessions, and had often thought of one day revisiting them, but that summer day in 2009 when he listened to the recordings it was an experience that took him completely by surprise. “I was in the very room we had worked in during the 1992 sessions and when Greg, the engineer, pressed play and brought up the faders the sound was amazing. For me it was a deeply emotional moment; the presence of the musicians in performance was surreal, it felt like they were in the room, that the music had been made both just then and long ago. What’s more, I could now speak Spanish, understand their comments and laugh at their jokes. Apart from the album tracks selected at the time, we had all forgotten what had been recorded and I discovered a treasure trove of material.”

It was agreed at the time that it would be great to do something with the wealth of music sitting in the cupboard but at that point there was no clear idea what. Five years later, the moment arrived and a plan was formulated. The deeper everyone went into the project the more profound it became and the result is a reimagining of an album that was already special. It has also become a celebration of Totó’s 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. La Candela Viva helped kick-start Totó’s international career and became a significant album for many, especially in Colombia, where she inspired a generation to embrace a culture long neglected by the mainstream.

The first job was to bake the tapes to remove any moisture that had accumulated on them, making them playable again so that the recordings could be digitised and worked on with modern technology. There were no track listings or notes, so Hollis ended up going through everything – some 20 tracks and 40 takes.

An introduction to Tambolero

That process threw up some real gems. At this point it occurred to John Hollis that Totó’s granddaughters would add a nice texture to some of the chorus lines and Totó happily agreed: “Claro, ellos son mis choristas! [of course, they are my backing singers].” Shortly after, Maria del Mar and Oriana Melissa entered The Wood Room studio, the very same space in which Totó and her band performed their set live 23 years earlier. Maria was present, a toddler at the time, and Oriana hadn’t been born. It was the second surreal moment and they delivered their parts beautifully. “I couldn’t resist the opportunity to drop double-bass into the sexteto songs, so we sent the tracks to Colombia, where Totó’s son, Marco Vinicio, went into the studio with Nestor Vanegas, the band’s current bassist. They added some lovely bass parts and now those tunes groove and breathe with fresh flair.”

Positive input from the original engineers, Dickie Chappell and Richard Blair, was invaluable and Peter Gabriel allowed the use of his personal studio for the work to be done in. Buoyed by this support, engineer Oli Jacobs and Hollis began mixing the recordings. The aim was to liberate the sound in a way not possible in 1992. The key to it all; unlocking the sound of Totó’s musicians’ drums. The beautiful tambores from the Caribbean coast of Colombia carry a rich range of frequencies, delivering an awesome sound. Hollis again “I wanted warm, bass-heavy colours from the heart of the wood and the crisp slap at the top edge of the skin. On these recordings the tambores are played by masters of the art and include the legendary drummer Batata. Hailing from an Afro-Colombian lineage, Batata was a key musician who worked alongside Totó and her family for many years. He has since passed and this album is imbued with the wonderful feel of his performance and presence. In tribute to him and the tradition championed by Totó for so long and in such an inspiring way, we renamed the album Tambolero.

Listen

Reviews

  • Hot and awesome... Tremendous reissue and fantastic album. NPR Music (USA)
  • Rising stars of world music The Times (UK)
  • An ingenious, and justified, remastering project. ★★★★★ Songlines (UK)
  • A syncopated, joyful delight you can sink into… Beautiful and reliant on drums while preserving the indigenous cultures of the Colombian coast. The Guardian (UK)
  • Inspired and life affirming. ★★★★ The Epoch Times (USA)
  • Totó's rich and powerful voice riding a wave of propulsive percussion, urged on by her feisty backing singers in the time-honoured call-and-response tradition. The Irish Times (Ireland)
  • Les rythmes haletants des tambours... présents d'un bout à l'autre de l'album, racontent avec clarté l'histoire à l'origine de cette identité. Le Monde (France)
  • A fresh, attacking set that provides a reminder of her powerful, compelling voice. The Guardian (UK)

Further Listening

  • La Candela Viva

    Totó La Momposina

    Released 10 September 1993

    La Candela Viva was the album that ignited Totó la Momposina’s international career and saw her recognised as a star in her native Colombia. It was partly recorded during the Real World Recording Week of 1991 and partly in 1992 with legendary producer Phil Ramone, and presents three distinct musical styles - Tambores, Sextetos and Gaitas – in a set of inspired performances.
  • Supernatural Love

    Sidestepper

    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.

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