Tambolero by Totó La Momposina y sus Tambores

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Totó La Momposina y sus Tambores
Real World (www.realworldrecords.com)

"La Candela Viva" (full song)
All audio © Real World Records. Used by permission.

Totó la Momposina (who accompanied Gabriel García Márquez to Stockholm when he accepted the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature) was among the first to bring Afro-Colombian roots music to the wider world. Totó subsequently took up residence in Paris, studied music at the Sorbonne, and performed her traditional repertoire for appreciative European audiences before returning to Colombia.

Then she accepted an invitation to England to tour and to record La Candela Viva (1991-92), her inaugural European release. Exhumed from the Real World archives nearly a quarter century later, studio outtakes from those sessions, now digitized, are the foundation of Tambolero. The result spans the spectrum of Afro-Colombian music, augmented with newly recorded bass tracks and choral backing by two of Totó's granddaughters. The recording's title track, an extended Afro composition, is in tribute to now-deceased master drummer (Tambolero) Paulino Salgado “Batata,” whose driving rhythmic signature pervades the production.

Yet Tambolero is anything but an opportunistic repackaging job. Producers John Hollis and Phil Ramone (both of whom were present at the original sessions) have assembled a percussive mix of Afro-Colombian traditional songs whose original rhythmic and choral call-and-response vitality comes through clearly.

"Adiòs Fulana" (excerpt)

"Gallinacito" (excerpt)

The repertoire ranges from the spirited carnivalesque (e.g., “Adiós fulana,” a lively garabato sung in tribute to an enchanting woman seen in the streets, and such chandé party songs as “Gallinacito” and “La candela viva”) to the roots cumbia rhythm (“El pescador,” “Dos de febrero,” “Cururá,” quite distinct from popularized renditions of the genre), the influential Cuban sexteto (a son-inflected “La sombra negra,” “Chi chi maní,” “Malanga”), and indigenous gaita-puya strains whose evocative woodwinds and yodel-like vocals are heard on “La acabación” and “Dáme la mano Juancho.”

"Malanga" (excerpt)

"La acabación" (excerpt)

Handsomely packaged in a hardback booklet with ample notes on the songs and instrumentation, photos, lyrics in Spanish and English, and personal reflections by Totó and Hollis (who married one of Totó's daughters along the way), Tambolero showcases one of Colombia's cultural treasures at her very best. - Michael Stone


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