Totó La Momposina y sus Tambores ‘Tambolero’ CD/Dig (Real World) 4/5

totó-la-momposinaColombian roots music receives scant treatment among international distributors. There is a ready-made market in salsa which the Colombian diaspora around the globe laps up with aplomb and in recent years it has been left to the likes of Soundway, Vampi Soul and World Circuit most notably to re-package and explore the vast heritage of cumbia which is the form of roots music most associated with the country. However, Colombia, by virtue of its numerous borders and geographical location on both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, offers myriad musical delights and only a few labels have sought to examine in any real depth the relationship between indigenous African, Indian and Spanish cultures. One artist who was initially largely neglected by her own national audience, but in recent decades has enjoyed more widespread interest as a direct result of her popularity outside the country is singer Totó La Momposina. Real World recorded her 1992 album, ‘La Candela Viva’, and some twenty-three years later, the singer has returned to this very same repertoire to recreate the music with an eye to contributing to the Real World records’ Gold series and a fine effort it is too.

This is Colombian music in its most undiluted form and it will take a few listens to adapt to the sparse instrumental accompaniment which is percussive and, in some respects at least, the equivalent of Cuban rumba or Puerto Rican plena, with in the Colombian case the maintaining of a rapid temp throughout and the frequent use of collective vocals and hand claps. This is precisely what greets the listener on the pulsating opener, ‘Adios Fulana’.

Totó La Momposina began her lengthy career aged just eight in the 1940s and this was as part of her mother’s dance group. By the time of her first Womad appearance in the early 1990s, she was already something of a veteran and, not dissimilar to the late Cesaria Evora, she became something of a world roots legend later in life when scoring an international hit with ‘La candela Viva’ and two subsequent albums fared well also. Renewed interested followed in her native land when her music was finally and belatedly recognised as worthy in its own right and this re-creation of her most canonised work is a timely reminder of what the singer is fully capable of.

Tim Stenhouse