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.”
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.
Totó La Momposina’s entire life has been dedicated to representing the music of Colombia’s Caribbean coastline. As a singer,
dancer and teacher she embodies that fertile place where Colombia’s African, Indigenous Indian and Spanish cultures mingle to create a unique musical tradition. Totó is not only its greatest interpreter, but also a restless innovator....more