Totó la Momposina is Colombia’s Queen of Cumbia

Totó la Momposina is a renowned Afro-Colombian folk singer. The “Queen of Cumbia” is the grand dame of Colombia’s unique blend of African, Native American, & Spanish song and dance traditions.

Totó la Momposina in NYC

Totó singing El Pescador in the 1991 sessions for her signature album La Candela Viva

La Momposina plays a free Central Park SummerStage concert with Mariachi Flor de Toloache, Saturday, July 8, 2017 6-10pm.

Totó la Momposina is Colombia’s Queen of Cumbia

Totó la Momposina was born Sonia Bazanta Vides in 1940 in Talaigua Nuevo, a town on the island of Mompós on the Magdalena River, the great river of Colombia that drains the Andes into the Caribbean at Barranquilla. That’s why they call her “La Momposina,” (the woman from Mompós).

Mompós was a colonial center for trade between the Andes and the Caribbean, so it was a melting pot of peoples. If you escaped slavery in colonial times, you fled to the mountains or the interior and lived among the Native people.

Cumbia is a Caribbean courtship dance that grew out of this mixing of Africans and Native Americans. Totó is the grand dame of Cumbia and other Caribbean folk traditions.

La Momposina was born into a family of musicians so she learned to sing and dance as a child. Having been born and raised before the changes brought about by globalization, Totó is an important connection to our past.

La Momposina got her nickname Totó because of her natural charisma. It means big heart in a small person.

Colombia’s civil war forced the family to flee to the capital Bogotá. There Totó’s mother started a dance group which kept traditions alive in the family home.

Totó turned professional in 1968 and began touring outside Colombia in the 1970s. WOMAD tours (World of Music and Dance) raised Totó’s profile in Europe in the 1980s. She lived in France for four years during this time and studied dance at the Sorbonne.

Totó recorded her classic breakout album La Candela Viva for Peter Gabriel’s Real World label in 1993.

Pacanto (2001) was nominated for a Latin Grammy for “Best Traditional Tropical Album.” In 2013, La Mamposina was awarded a Latin Grammy for Lifetime Achievement.

Many of the songs from La Candela Viva have now been reimagined as Tambolero (2015), a celebration of La Mamposina’s 60th anniversary as an artist.


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