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Totó La Momposina

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Talaigua, Colombia

Legendary Colombian vocalist Toto la Momposina brings together the music of three races, indigenous , and with Afro-Latin , and . Toto was born in the northern village of Talaigua, Colombia, on the island of Mompos. As its name suggests, Talaigua was once an Indigenous land. The Spanish invasion five hundred years ago forced the population inland. “The music I play has its roots in mixed race,” she explains. “The flutes are pre-columbian, the drums of course are from Africa, and the guitar from the conquistadors.” However, she points out that the Spanish guitar actually has its roots in Moorish Africa.

If many of her songs sound a bit Cuban, it is for good reason. Through the 19th century, there were huge waves of Cuban immigration along the northern Caribbean Colombian shores near Baranquilla. These slaves brought with them Cuban music, which led to the development of the sexteto, Colombia’s cousin to Cuba’s son.

“However, I don’t think of it as ‘folklore’,” adds Totó. “To me, folklore means something that is dead, in a museum. Traditional music, music from the old days is alive.” There probably isn’t a single person who has done more to revitalize the music of northern Colombia’s shores. In 1993, she recorded the landmark album, “La Candela Viva” for Peter Gabriel’s RealWorld label and ever since has been busy performing at the world’s top music festivals. She is a rare performer whose energetic and passionate recordings capture the energy of her live performances.

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