Totó la Momposina: an icon of Colombian music that says goodbye to the stage

The Bolivarian singer, who took the ancestral music of Colombia around the world and became an icon of the country, announced her retirement from the stage after a 58-year career.

After six decades of musical career and 82 years of life, Totó la Momposina, perhaps the most important icon of traditional music and Colombian folklore in the world, announced his retirement from the stage on Tuesday. A short statement signed by the Oyaga Bazanta family and his work team appeared on his Twitter account, in which they announced “that the time has come to retire from the stage after his long artistic career, which has been carried out with absolute dedication, dedication, love and devotion”.

The news had already been known a few months ago in musical circles and, in fact, Totó was fired in Medellín, during the Flower Fair, and in Cali, in full Petronio Alvarez Festival. Also this Monday, at the Teatro Mayor Julio Mario Santo Domingo, a tribute was paid to him. Now that his withdrawal has been made public, however, it is known to be due to a aphasia which, according to his family, has caused him “for some time, neuro-cognitive difficulties that prevent him from continuing to act on stage”.

Totó, who will sing for the last time in the Parque Simón Bolívar, in Bogotá, as part of the mountain range festival, this Saturday, September 24, thus ends a career that began when he was very young, together with his family, but which was predestined since he was born. What he once told the magazine mouths: “Being a singer is discovered the day you are born and you give your first cry. Those who shout with harmony are the ones who are going to sing, and I shouted with harmony”.

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That cry was given on August 1, 1940 in Talaigua Nuevo, a municipality of Bolívar located on the island of Mompox, in the middle of the Momposina depression. Her parents called her Sonia María Bazanta and since she was little music was part of her life, because her family came from a great lineage of artists: percussionists, clarinettists, dancers and singers, like her mother.

As a child she lived in Barrancabermeja and Villavicencio, but from there her family fled because of political violence (her liberal father was accused of killing conservatives). They arrived in Bogotá and lived, first, in the Las Cruces neighborhood and, later, in Restrepo. There, in addition to studying, she learned to weave with her mother, and to make shoes with her father, who had a shoe store. But most of her time was dedicated to the group Danzas del Caribe, created by her mother, where she danced and sang traditional music from the Colombian Caribbean.

His career started there. Her voice stood out so much that, in 1954, in a presentation for the inauguration of the Bogotá Convention Center, she impressed Celia Cruz herself, an artist invited to that event. “When I went out to sing ‘El mapalé’, Celia asked my mother who that girl was and she told her that she was predestined to be a star”counted in mouths. They didn’t tell her until many years later, because her family believed (as she still does) that flattery is not good for artists.

See here Totó La Momposina singing The fisherman:

With Dances of the Caribbean he also came to television. First, in the late fifties on a show called Coastal Watercolors, where he danced cumbias, porros, merengues, and other traditional dances. But along with the presentations, she dedicated herself to studying; He entered the Conservatory of Music of the National University not because he wanted to learn to sing (he already knew that), but because he wanted to learn to care for and preserve his voice.

In 1964 she finally became independent and created her own group: Totó la Momposina y sus tambores (using the affectionate name her father used to call her since she was a child). With them she had international tours and was on national television programs such as Happy Saturdays, The Jimmy Show And till The Star Show.

Those were tough times: she promoted herself and tried to get a national label to promote her first album (Totó la Momposina and her drums: Colombia), which he had recorded in France, but was unsuccessful. They did not believe that traditional Afro and indigenous music could have a place in the national market.

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Her first great moment of glory was in 1982, when Gabriel García Márquez won the Nobel Prize for Literature and asked that she, along with her group, be in charge of performing during the award ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden. A year later she went to Paris and there, while studying at the Sorbonne, she sang in bars, subway stations, universities and other places.

Thomas Brooman, the director of the WOMAD festival, who was promoting World Music, as the genre that brings together traditional and folk music from around the world, is known in the industry. Through him, her music reached the ears of Peter Gabriel, British rocker and ex-vocalist of the band Genesis, another lover of World Music, who became interested in her and asked her to go to England to record with the Real World Foundation. .

Together with him and with the British producer Richard Blair, he recorded in 1992 what, for many, is considered his best album: the living candle. It was a turning point in his career. From there came festivals, awards, new albums and worldwide recognition.

See here Totó La Momposina singing the living candlein the studies of the Real World Foundation:

Totó la Momposina, already converted into the great icon of Colombian folk music, continued to represent the country on the international stage. She recognized her enough for her to record the song together with Calle 13 Latin Americain 2011, and to win a Latin Grammy Award for her artistic career in 2013 (she had already been nominated for her album Bagpipes and Drums in 2002). Also to win, in 2006, the Womex award (one of the most important for World Music), and in 2011, the National Life and Work Award from the Ministry of Culture.

His retirement from the stage reaches his 82 years, when Colombian music is experiencing a moment of recognition throughout the world, in part thanks to the impulse that Totó gave to traditional and ancestral rhythms when no one else did. Now, while the great artist rests after almost 60 years of continuous work, her music will continue to live in Colombia and in the world.

Siga con: “En mi familia los muertos tenían más vida que los vivos”

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Totó la Momposina: an icon of Colombian music that says goodbye to the stage