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Totó La Momposina

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Toto La Momposina

  • country: Colombia
  • region: South America
  • style(s): Afro, Cumbia
  • label: Astar
  • type: Big Band
  • gender: female
  • instrumentation: instrumental, vocal, percussion, brass, salsa and latin band, guitar
  • artist posted by: Dérapage Prod
  • booking SITE (FRANCE)

The Original Queen of Cumbia Returns A magnificent performer, Totó La Momposina is a charismatic living legend of Afro-Colombian song, the original ‘Queen of Cumbia’ whose entire life has been dedicated to representing the music of her country’s Caribbean coastline. A mix of African, indigenous Indian and Spanish cultures gave the region the rich musical traditions which Totó has been instrumental in keeping alive and taking to international audiences. Cumbia is the percussive style characterised by off-beat polyrhythms which exploded across Latin America and beyond; today it is one of the most influential and best-loved musical exports of the region. Toto’s music has touched artists far and wide, from Timbaland (his track ‘Indian Flute’ samples Toto’s Curura) to Manu Chao (who borrowed a chorus from La Verdolaga) to Michel Cleis’ 2009 cumbia-house mega hit La Mezcla (the Ibiza dance track of the summer samples vocals and tambores from El Pescador). Toto’s brand new album La Bodega captures all the energy and range of her phenomenal career so far. With Afro-Colombian percussion, blazing horns, traditional gaita flutes and rippling guitar, this upbeat set of new compositions and vintage classics, from rolling cumbias to the irresistible porro, gives us Totó La Momposina at her rootsy sparkling best. Hailing from Talaigua, a tiny village on the banks of the mighty Magdalena River, Totó was born into a family of musicians spanning five generations. The household lived with the musical traditions of ‘la costa’ and she learned to sing and dance as a child. As a teenager, she traveled from village to village researching their various rhythms and dances and studying the art of the cantadora – the gifted women at the heart of rural cultural life. Later, when civil war forced Totó’s family to flee to the capital Bogotá, her mother turned their home into a sanctuary for the coastal musical traditions such as cumbia, bullerenge, and mapale which were in danger of being lost. Since the 1960s when Totó emerged as a popular singer, these rhythms have formed the core of a vast repertoire which also embraces other Latin American traditions such as Cuban son, guaracha and bolero. She has toured internationally since the 1970s and in 1982 accompanied Gabriel Garcia Marquez to Stockholm to perform at his Nobel prize ceremony. In the early 1990s her global fame was cemented by a WOMAD tour across three continents and the release of La Candela Viva, the first of many acclaimed albums. In 2006 she was presented with the WOMEX Lifetime Achievement Award for her extraordinary contribution to world music. A dynamic 71 year old, Totó continues to work tirelessly to promote the music of her homeland, driven by passion and the simple joy of performance. “A cantadora belongs to the people!” Totó exclaims. “She is a woman who belongs to the space around her and who is true to her roots...but she is born with the gift of singing, the gift of summoning people.” Through the power of her voice and creative spontaneity, Totó La Momposina has used this gift to summon people from all over the world, to hear the evocative village music of her roots, and celebrate a rich traditional legacy with one of the true giants of Latin American music. REVIEWS What Evora is to Cape Verde, Toto La Momposina is to Colombia. The styles couldn't be further apart. I remember Evora performing, stopping mid-song to light a cigarette and sit on a chair, smoking and gazing out into the crowd, a drink of brandy or rum in her hand, a queen and rightfully so. La Momposina is a firecracker. She runs out to stage a cappella and stops the hearts of everyone. Her musicians appear, she weaves between them, half hyper child, half humble diva, fully engaging. Everyone in the room sits dumbstruck, enamored, in love with woman and music. La Momposina invites all the aspects of her country -- good, bad, otherwise -- and makes a party of them, not without knowledge, not without understanding. She sees it all; she just chooses to dance in spite of tragedy, a beautiful message to people of all places and times (Huffington Post) ...This is the legendary Toto La Momposina's home turf, the land and people who inspired her to carry the musical torch of five generations of ancestors, and develop their traditions, pursuing her passionate love for Colombia's long neglected and disdained Afro-indigenous music with dogged determination in her native land, in Europe, and now worldwide... (All About Jazz) ...We have to hand it to Colombia: Some of the most popular Latin singers today hail from the South American nation, including pop/rock superstars Juanes and Shakira, Its most emblematic artist is the legendary Afro-Caribbean singer and dancer Totó La Momposina (The Black Urban Times) 13 peoples on tour (Totó + 9 musicians + 3)

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Real World Records

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Totó la Momposina

Totó la Momposina

T otó 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 a restless innovator too.

Totó hails —as did her ancestors— from the village of Talaigua, at the heart of an island in the great Magdalena River, called Mompos (hence ‘la Momposina’). The river, which rises high in the Andes, stretches over a thousand miles to the Caribbean.

Born into a family of musicians spanning five generations, Totó learned to sing and dance as a child. Her father was a drummer, her mother a singer and dancer; their household lived with the musical traditions of ‘la costa’. Whilst still a child, civil war forced Totó to flee her home and move to the capital Bogotá. There her mother started a dance group, created with the specific intention that the five siblings would be proud of their Colombian identity and Afro-Indian culture.

As a young woman, she travelled from village to village researching their various rhythms and dances and studying the art of the cantadora. Traditionally the cantadoras are peasants, women who grow yucca, plantain and pumpkins in the patches of land behind their huts. These women play a central role in the village culture. Those songs that the villagers sing to accompany their daily tasks are now performed by Totó on stage, such as rhythmic chants to pace the pounding of the corn, and suggestive lyrics which add spice to the monotony of scrubbing the clothes in the river. The drums are played by the men, boat-builders who hollow out tree trunks with their axes, fishermen, net-menders and cigar-makers.

Gradually, Totó’s voice and performance technique matured, until in 1968 she formed her own group and began to pursue a professional career, though still delighting in playing at family fiestas, street parties and other roles enacted by ‘la cantadora del pueblo’. Rapidly gaining a reputation for her impressive voice and presence she began to appear outside Colombia in the 1970s touring in Latin America, Western and Eastern Europe and the United States. In 1982 she accompanied Gabriel Garcia Marquez to Stockholm to perform at his Nobel prize ceremony.

However, it was the invitation to perform at the WOMAD Festival in 1991 that led to Totó’s participation in the first Real World Recording Week that year, and ultimately to the recording of the songs — with legendary American producer Phil Ramone at the controls in 1991 and English producer John Hollis for the follow-up sessions in 1992 —that would become her first album recorded for Real World, La Candela Viva .

The international success of La Candela Viva , and the following two albums Carmelina 1995 and Pacantó  (MTM/Colombia), would ignite Totó’s career in Colombia and finally see her recognized as a star in her own country.

The music has continued to endure, including being routinely sampled by the world of dance and hip-hop ( Michel Cleis , Da R3volution and Timbaland , to name but a few). She continues to work tirelessly to promote the music of her homeland, driven by passion and the simple joy of performance. In 2006 she was presented with the WOMEX Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2013 the Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award .

As part of the Real World Gold series of re-issues, we have revisited La Candela Viva . The original 1991/92 master tapes have been restored and remixed, instrumentation added, and backing vocals from Totó’s young granddaughters. More than just a re-release of La Candela Viva , the renamed album Tambolero is a genuine re-appraisal and re-imagining of the original, in which Totó continues to reflect the experience of her native Colombia through her life and music. The two things are intertwined: the story of Totó La Momposina is truly the story of modern Colombia. It has also become a celebration of Totó’s professional career, which will soon reach a landmark 60 years —six decades dedicated to preserving, researching and developing an ancestral tradition, the identity of a people, passed down through the generations.

Totó la Momposina

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Totó La Momposina - La Candela Viva

La Candela Viva

La Candela Viva was the album that ignited Totó la Momposina’s international career and saw her recognised as a star in her native Colombia. It was partly recorded during the Real World Recording Week of 1991 and partly in 1992 with legendary producer Phil Ramone, and presents three distinct musical styles - Tambores, Sextetos and Gaitas – in a set of inspired performances.

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Totó La Momposina - Tambolero

You don't normally get the chance to go back in time and reimagine a classic album like La Candela Viva but creating Tambolero has been a challenge and a delight. It’s become a celebration of Totó's career: six decades dedicated to preserving, researching and developing an ancestral tradition, the identity of a people, passed down through the generations. 

Buy now at the Real World store : cd

Totó la Momposina - Fuego

Fuego features four previously unreleased songs from the original La Candela Viva 1991/1992 sessions, which were discovered in 2015 when the original master tapes were restored and digitally remastered.

Totó la Momposina - The Garabato Sessions

The Garabato Sessions

Buy now at the Real World store

RW203 Real World 25

Real World 25

Various Artists

Totó la Momposina - Échale Salsita

Échale Salsita

Totó la Momposina - Iluminan Mi Sendero / Acompañala

Iluminan Mi Sendero / Acompañala

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Mapale/Prende la Vela (live at Real World Recording Week 1991)

Adios fulana (live at quai branly), tu tambor (live at real world studios), el pescador (live at quai branly), julio moreno (live at real world studios).

View all videos

Further reading

Totó la Momposina

Totó la Momposina in Paris: a Colombian refugee becomes a star

How the Colombian musical icon’s career blossomed in the 70s and 80s in France

Fri, 22 June 18

Totó la Momposina live at St. George's Bristol

Live: Totó la Momposina at St. George’s Bristol

The Colombian legend was joined by her band and local school children for an energetic show at St. G...

Fri, 06 July 18

Totó la Momposina - La Candela Viva

Real World Sessions: Totó la Momposina, 18 August 1991

A look back on The Wood Room session with producer Phil Ramone and mix engineer Richard Blair.

Sat, 22 September 18

Totó la Momposina

Totó la Momposina: The Flower that Appears and Disappears

Tatiana Spencer explores the world of Colombian folk music legend Totó la Momposina.

Wed, 25 November 92

toto la momposina tour

toto

Festival Totó la Momposina

El canto, la danza y la palabra que nutren el alma de un territorio.

toto la momposina tour

Sobre el Festival

El Festival Internacional Totó la Momposina es un espacio que busca resaltar las prácticas ancestrales y el conocimiento de las tradiciones de la cultura Afro Caribe, reuniendo a participantes de distintos lugares nacionales que comparten la identidad afro. Este evento sirve como plataforma para promover a artistas emergentes y celebrar la diversidad.

Convocatoria

Todos los artistas están cordialmente invitados, cantadoras, juglares, tamboreros y gaiteros.

Accede al siguiente enlace y únete a la fiesta.

toto la momposina tour

Te esperamos...

toto la momposina tour

  • Big Picture
  • Bakeries and Cafes
  • Latin American
  • Mediterranean
  • Vegetarian and Vegan

Totó La Momposina: Colombia’s Queen of Cumbia

toto la momposina tour

It was as if everyone from Gabriel García Márquez’s fictional town Macondo were swooping down the stairs of Stockholm City Hall at the writer’s Nobel Prize banquet in 1982.

Some 200 Colombian musicians and artists, many of them costeños, had joined García Márquez in Sweden to celebrate his Nobel Prize in Literature. But one person stood out—a barefooted, afro-indigenous woman who astonished the crowd with her singing and dancing on the hall’s marble floors.

The woman was Sonia Bazanta Vides, better known as “Totó La Momposina,” and every surge of her indomitable voice was saturated in history with deep-rooted links to the inland tropics of Colombia’s Caribbean coast.

“Afterwards, the majordomo came and thanked us all for coming,” Totó recalled from a restaurant in Bogotá’s Chapinero Alto district. “Then he said, ‘the Queen of Sweden has a special message for Totó la Momposina.’”

In the Queen’s words: “Never stop singing.”

That moment, an extraordinary recognition of Totó’s talents and the musical traditions forged over generations along the banks of Colombia’s Magdalena River, has stayed with the singer for 34 years, even as she has risen to fame and performed around the world.

And on December 6, the global acclaim for Totó will reach new heights when she joins the ranks of Bob Dylan, Mercedes Sosa, and Bono as a member of the Order of Arts and Letters, one of France’s highest honors for distinguished “contributions to arts in letters in France and around the world.”

Even as Totó nibbled on a salad in Chapinero, she had eyes like a fire-cracker and a smile that seemed to transcend time. Her mind was on her concert the following night at Bogotá’s Royal Theater. She still didn’t know what songs she would sing, and she confessed that her nerves were already getting to her.

“The day that I cease to be nervous before going on stage, I will retire,” she said. “Because at that point music will have become mechanical.”

Born in 1940 in Talaigua Nuevo, a village on the Magdalena River some 120 miles southeast of Cartagena, Totó, a fifth-generation musician, grew up surrounded by the musical traditions of “la costa.”

Her father was a shoemaker and a drummer. Her mother sang, danced, and played the mandola. From a very young age, she learned to sing and dance — earning a nickname, Totó, that has stuck throughout her life.

“Totó means big heart but small in stature,” she says laughing. “People have always called me that, and that has never changed. And it never will change.”

She was six years old when she first performed on stage. “My mother would put on plays,” Totó said. “At the end of the school year she put on a performance and taught me a song and I sang it.”

It was just the beginning. But a confluence of cultures, rhythms, and traditions were already shaping her musical identity.

The marshy tropics of Colombia’s Caribbean coast were a melting pot for musical innovation, with different styles and traditions seemingly sprouting up in each town.

As a teenager, Totó would journey from village to village, soaking up each town’s rhythms and dances. She saw the men of the villages, mainly the fishermen, cigar-makers or the men who turned tree trunks into canoes, pounding on drums.

But it was the “cantadoras,” the women who sang about everyday life, who commanded Totó’s attention. She studied these women as they sang about mashing corn, washing clothes in the river and growing cassava and plantain behind their shacks. This was the music Totó would soon introduce to the world.

Talaigua Nuevo, for its part, was located on a river island called Mompós, one of the most culturally and musically diverse places in Colombia. Between the 16th and 19th centuries, Mompós was a vital trading outpost that connected the Atlantic coast with the Andes. The Spanish used the inland town to safeguard plundered gold from Caribbean pirates. But the bustling commerce filled the streets with a unique mix of Europeans, indigenous and African slaves — all bringing their own musical traditions with them.

Totó believes that “hundreds” of genres of music were born in or around Mompos, including rhythms like the cumbia, chalupa, mapale, and bullerengue. The music was then transported down the Magdalena River and introduced to the rest of the country, making the river one of Colombia’s most important cultural waterways.

Totó spent little of her childhood in Mompós. Her family relocated briefly to Villavicencio before civil conflict in the mid-20th century forced them to flee to Bogotá. But Mompós, where her ancestors are from, was already etched in Toto?’s musical genes, for “Momposina” means “from Mompós.”

“The love for music is passed on through your genes,” Totó said. “I never lost my sense of belonging.”

In Bogotá, Toto’s mother transformed their home into a sanctuary for the musical traditions of their homeland. She started a dance group and many of the Caribbean coast’s musical luminaries including Lucho Bermudez would spend time at the house.

Totó quickly became a “promising singer” in her mother’s dance group, and in the 1960s, Totó formed a band that would gain some local popularity. She performed at family parties, street parties or wherever she could. Her family then began promoting her music on television to expand her audience.

“My music is a singing dance that belongs to a tradition,” Totó said. “The tradition has been flowing and evolving from generation to generation, and I gave it my own flavor.”

She toured outside of the Colombia for the first time in the 1970s, but in 1982, Totó left Colombia to study music at the Sorbonne in Paris — an adoptive home of sorts. France, she said, “has a great culture for art.” And the French were very receptive to Totó’s music.

She recorded her first album in Paris and became an ambassador for the music of her homeland, touring across Europe and the Soviet Union. “In France, I sang in the streets, in restaurants, on street corners, in supermarkets, in the metro, everywhere,” Totó said.

But her big break arrived when Grammy Award-winning musician Peter Gabriel heard her singing at a concert in France. Gabriel brought her to his home studio, Real World Studios, and began recording what would be her breakthrough 1993 album, “La Candela Viva,” which featured one of her best-known songs, “El Pescador.”

Totó went back on the road after finishing the album, gaining a following in France, other parts of Europe, and Colombia.

She has since recorded five albums, including a 2015 effort called “Tambolero” in which, with her granddaughters, she “recreated and reimagined” many of the songs recorded during the “La Candela Viva” sessions.

Totó’s music has impacted musicians around the world. U.S. rapper and DJ Timabland and world music star Manu Chao have sampled Totó’s songs. She also provided vocals for Calle 13’s hit song “Latinoamerica.”

She has been called “The Queen of Cumbia” and “The Voice of Colombia,” but for her it is about keeping the musical traditions alive and introducing them to younger generations. “The stage is a temple,” Totó said. “You must respect it. I give my heart to the audience. It is a commitment.”

Although Colombia’s traditional music is often overshadowed by commercial artists, the recognition she is receiving and the crowds at her shows have been growing.

Totó recently performed at the World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders in Bogotá and in Llanos de Yarí, Meta, in celebration of the signing of the peace accord between the Colombian government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). In 2013, she was awarded the Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. “Colombians are recognizing their cultural and musical identity,” Totó said.

After more than 60 years of performing, Totó’s music is an enduring link between Colombia’s past and present. The story of her music, in many ways, is the story of Colombia’s musical heritage. And at 76 years old, Totó shows no signs of stopping.

“I continue to sing because I love it,” she said. “It is my mission here on Earth.”

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Toto La Momposina

Toto La Momposina

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Past Events

Here are the most recent UK tour dates we had listed for Toto La Momposina. Were you there?

  • Fri 28 Apr London, Cadogan Hall Toto La Momposina
  • Fri 24 Jul ➙ Sun 26 Jul Malmesbury, Charlton Park Womad 47SOUL, Acholi Machon, Alhousseini Anivolla, Analog Africa Sound System, Andy Votel…

September 2009

  • Wed 16 Sep London, Cargo Toto La Momposina
  • Thu 10 Sep Totnes, Dartington Hall Toto La Momposina
  • Fri 10 Jul ➙ Sat 11 Jul Reading, Thames Promenade Drummers Of Burundi, Roots Manuva, Sharon Shannon, The Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain, The Wonder Stuff, Bassekou Kouyate, Ngoni Ba, Toto La Momposina, Colores De Colombia, Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar, Eliza Carthy, Chase and Status, The Bays, Billy Cobham, The Fence Collective, Ku-Da-Mix Orchestra, Glass Half Full, Patrick Duff, The Oyster Ceilidh Band, Spiro …

toto la momposina tour

Toto la Momposina Tickets

Toto la momposina concert tickets.

Grab Toto la Momposina tickets to see a great performance live and in person. Concerts are held in a wide variety of venues that vary from small nightclubs, arenas, concert halls to stadiums and concert festivals held at outdoor parks. Concerts typically require professional audio equipment to support the performer. Prior to recorded music, live concerts were the only way to hear musicians perform.

The first known concerts were in the late sixteenth century in London. In the late eighteenth century, the most common performances were symphonies. Concerts vary in type and include recitals, theatrical, classic and tribute. Get ready to be shouting and dancing along with fans in the audience. Purchase Toto la Momposina tickets to witness a spectacular show.

How much are Toto la Momposina tickets?

Toto la Momposina ticket prices can range from around $34 on up. The get-in ticket price can be as low as around $27 depending on the location. If you are looking for cheap tickets, check the availability of seating in the upper levels of the venue. Over the past decade, concert ticket prices have seen an increase of over 55%. However, ticket prices for these performances will tend to be modest with most tickets being under $65 each.

When do Toto la Momposina tickets go on sale?

TicketSmarter has a wide selection of authentic Toto la Momposina tour tickets within a week of the tour being announced. You never need a presale code to get early access to concert tickets with us. Don’t miss out on an unforgettable show and download available Toto la Momposina tickets today.

Toto la Momposina Tour Dates & Concert Schedule

Toto la Momposina concert schedule typically includes a number of stops along their tour. However, there are some instances where the performances are limited to one city or venue or limited tour stops. Potentially see them perform at The Fox Theatre at Foxwoods, Arcada Theatre in St. Charles and Daryl's House in New York. Look at the Toto la Momposina tour date schedule above to find out when they will be in your hometown.

Songs from the Toto la Momposina Tour Setlist

Toto la Momposina's setlist while performing in Rio de Janeiro , RJ at “Praça Paris” included the following songs:

  • La verdolaga
  • La candela viva
  • El porro magangueleño
  • Dueña de los jardines
  • Los sabores del porro
  • El pescador
  • Manuelito Barrios/Donde canta la paloma
  • Aronde me meto yo

Source: Setlist.fm

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Colombia's Grande Dame, Totó la Momposina: 50 Yrs In Musical Spotlight

Totó La Momposina

She has been called the great matriarch of Colombian music, taking that South American country’s sounds all over the world. This year Sonia Bazanta Vides – better known as Totó la Momposina – celebrates 50 years as one of her country’s most beloved artists, so beloved that she was asked to perform at the 1982 Nobel Literature prize ceremony for fellow Colombian, the late renowned novelist Gabriel García Márquez.

Toto La Momposina

“What I do, I do with a lot of heart and a lot of love, for the country and all people,” said Totó, who spoke to NBC News from Paris. She is selling out venues in France, Germany and throughout the rest of Europe promoting her newest artistic endeavor: Tambolero , a re-creation and re-mastering of her smash-hit classic, La Candela Viva (The Living Flame), which was released to wide acclaim in 1993 and which put her on the map of the world music scene.

“The old is new, the new is old,” she said, laughing.

Nominated for a Grammy Award this year for Best Tropical Latin Album, Totó has worked with many artists, including fellow Colombians Carlos Vives and Juanes, and in 2011 received a Latin Grammy for her special collaboration with the Puerto Rican urban/hip hop group Calle 13 for their song “Latinoamérica.”

The Latin Grammys awarded her with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013. Totó says there are plans to tour the United States later this year, although the dates and venues are still being fleshed out.

Totó's music combines African, Native Indian, and Spanish traditions and on stage she is accompanied by a wide variety of guitars that include tiples (Colombian guitars), and also drums, brass instruments, Colombian gaitas (bagpipes), dancers, and singers.

The Afro-Colombian Totó, who got her nickname from her parents, comes from the Colombian village of Talaigua, in a region of northern Colombia called Santa Cruz de Mompós (from where her artistic last name La Momposina – which literally means The Woman from Mompós -- originates) in the state of Bolívar, which also includes the musically rich regions of Cartagena and Barranquilla along the Caribbean coast.

Totó’s music includes many of the rhythms of the Caribbean, including the son, guaracha, rumba, bolero and the iconic cumbia , which originated in Colombia’s Caribbean region. In fact, Totó is called the Queen of Cumbia, and one of her hits, Yo Me Llamo Cumbia (My Name is Cumbia) speaks of the love Colombians have for the musical genre: “My name is cumbia. I am the queen wherever I go, and there isn’t a hip that stays still when I show up,” says one of the song’s lyrics.

Toto La Momposina

Totó is a fourth-generation musician and artist. Her father was a drummer and her mother a singer and dancer, and Totó herself grew up surrounded by music and playing at family gatherings and street parties. In the 1970s she took her special blend of artistry outside of Colombia, touring throughout the rest of Latin America, Europe and the United States.

“Wherever I go I feel enormous pride and happiness and a special love for my country and its music,” she said, adding that she is passing along her music traditions to her children and grandchildren, who oftentimes perform with her. Her granddaughters are part of the chorus on the new album.

Toto La Momposina

Totó spent four years in France, studying dance at the Sorbonne, and it was in France where she recorded her first album, Totó La Momposina y Sus Tambores (Totó La Momposina and her Drums), touring extensively throughout France and Germany and also participating in the World of Music Arts and Dance (WOMAD) arts festival in England.

Like the late Cape Verdean singer Cesaria Evora, Totó likes to perform barefoot, and like Evora, is known as La Diva Descalza (The Barefoot Diva).

Like "La Candela Viva", this year’s "Tambolero" is being released on artist Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records label.

Tambolero by Totó La Momposina

“This (new CD) is a re-imagination and at the same a whole new discovery, an unexpected discovery,” Totó said to NBC. She calls it unexpected because not only have the original master tapes been restored and remixed, the new album includes tracks that have never been released before.

“It’s like a kind of destiny for me,” she said.

Follow NBC News Latino on Facebook and Twitter

Patricia Guadalupe is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C.  Guadalupe has reported for several media outlets, including National Public Radio's Latino USA, CBS Radio and Pacifica Radio Network. 

How Totó La Momposina became the Queen of Cumbia

Wednesday, february 8, 2023.

By Russ Slater Johnson

Totó La Momposina reflects on her journey from a small Colombian village to the international stage

Totó La Momposina

When I last interviewed Totó La Momposina in 2015, I asked her why she had made it her life’s work to popularise cumbia . “I didn’t choose it to be commercial,” she replied, “but because it had to be done. Every time you perform you have to do better because people need music to identify themselves; it dignifies them.”

It’s this drive to perform and engage audiences that has been at the heart of a career that has now drawn to a close, as in September her family and management announced her retirement, due to Alzheimer’s disease. At 82 years old, it’s remarkable looking back at what she has achieved, especially considering the obstacles in her way: civil wars, Colombia’s indifference to folk music, a need to adapt to new environments, not to mention all the discrimination she has faced as a female Afro-Indigenous performer in an industry that has struggled to offer equality. This is her story, in the words of La Momposina and those who know her well, of becoming the ‘Queen of Cumbia.’

Totó la Momposina on tour in Europe in the 1970s

Totó la Momposina on tour in Europe in the 1970s

La Momposina was born Sonia Bazanta Vides in 1940 in Talaigua, a village on the Magdalena River. Her father nicknamed her Totó – “it was the only word that I could pronounce well,” she laughs, “a banana was a totó , an apple was a totó .” The rest of her artistic moniker came from the wider region in which she grew up, Mompós. “We did not have to attend a marketing course to come up with the name,” she chuckles. She started performing when she was eight. “My mother was determined that her children would be proud of their Afro-Indigenous identity, so she formed a group called Danzas del Caribe in the 1950s and that’s how I started singing.”

By that time, La Momposina’s family had moved to Bogotá after her father was wrongfully imprisoned during the political persecution and brutality of La Violencia, a violent ten-year civil war that displaced close to ten million Colombians. Totó remembers, “we had to leave everything we had, [our] shoe-making workshop, our house, our friends and put the few possessions that we had on a truck to go to a city totally unknown to us, where we had to face many difficulties, since at this time there were not many people of our culture and colour.”

La Momposina’s parents were musicians and dancers, and she had a musical upbringing, with students and musicians from the Caribbean coast regular visitors to the family home. “In Bogotá, there weren’t any cultural centres. Our house was the centro cultural de Bogotá .” With her family she performed on TV and for diplomats, doing whatever they could to get their music heard.

She formed her own group, Totó La Momposina y Sus Tambores, in 1967. They performed a repertoire that stemmed from her research into the rhythms and traditions that flowed down the Magdalena River, passing though her home town of Mompós and along the coast. It’s this region, originally inhabited by Colombia’s Indigenous peoples and later, once it became an important colonial trading route, by Europeans and Africans, that is the cradle of Colombian cumbia, as well as sister genres like chandé , mapalé , fandango , porro , puya and bullerengue . La Momposina and her group would perform these styles in fiestas and during shows, with La Momposina adopting the role of cantadora , a matriarchal female singer improvising in couplets.

Totó la Momposina on Colombian TV in 1992 (photo: Juan Camilo Segura)

Totó la Momposina on Colombian TV in 1992 (photo: Juan Camilo Segura)

As her reputation grew, La Momposina began performing outside of Colombia and in 1974 Delia Zapata Olivella (an important researcher and documenter of Afro-Colombian music) took her to New York to perform at Radio City Music Hall. “We played between 160 and 200 concerts with four performances a day for two months, doing the same show,” she remembered. “It was a really tough experience. I almost threw in the towel. Fortunately, I stuck with it as I learned so much.”

Her first invitation to Europe came when AirFrance asked her to perform as part of a promotion of Colombian gastronomy at a restaurant in Montparnasse, Paris. She was accompanied by the anthropologist Gloria Triana who recalls, “it was an unsuitable setting for singing, since the French only wanted to talk while they ate. They asked for the volume of the drums to be lowered and Totó cried during the intervals.” But she didn’t give up, returning to Europe for shows in Germany, Poland, Switzerland and the Soviet Union.

When she discovered that she was on a Colombian governmental blacklist for left-wing connections, she decided to head to France indefinitely, arriving in Paris with three of her musicians, including the legendary percussionist Batata. With no money or place to stay, they were taken in by Le Collectif de la Rue Dunois, a group of mime artists and street musicians, who quickly involved them in their regular theatre shows.

Laurent Berman was one of Le Collectif and remembers taking La Momposina and her musicians on a tour of southern France: “Together we created a true festival, featuring French, Yiddish and Colombian music, a barrel organ, a children’s show with a merry-go-round, a moving cinema in a truck, an English double-decker bus, and even a hot-air balloon. Totó was a great success everywhere.”

Totó la Momposina on Colombian TV in 1992 (photo: Juan Camilo Segura)

“In France, I sang in the streets, in restaurants, on street corners, in markets, in the métro , everywhere,” says La Momposina about her time there. It was in France, too, that she met Carlos Arguedas, a Bolivian musician who agreed to record her debut album, Colombie (1984).

Another notable event happened in 1982 when she was invited as part of a Colombian entourage to perform in Stockholm when Gabriel García Márquez received the Nobel Prize for Literature. Colombian writer Julio Olaciregui vividly remembers meeting La Momposina during this time: “I did not imagine that Totó, who cast a spell on me in Barranquilla in the 70s, would cure me sometime later, in Paris, of homesickness, that climatic phenomenon stirred with nostalgia, an indefinite malaise, far from the sea. Guided by her, I returned to the Magdalena River. I will always see Totó dancing barefoot, in a trance to the drum of Batata, on stage at the Maison de la Radio.”

After France, La Momposina moved back to Colombia – “I was falling prey to ethnomusicologists and needed to recharge my batteries” – before establishing herself in the UK. At first, she was invited to a get-together of musicians at Real World Studios in 1991, where Richard Blair was working: “I was walking past a live room, and I heard something deep and heavy going on,” says Blair. “I crept in quietly and there was Totó dressed in bright colours, very imperious and poised and graceful. Initially the first thing I heard had a Caribbean vibe, it was almost like a ghost of some old King Tubby record, but it was wilder and looser, and more ancestral somehow. It was only hand drums and vocals, and I was absolutely transfixed. It completely electrified me; I’d never heard anything quite like it.”

Totó la Momposina in Cartagena (photo: Josh Pulman)

Totó la Momposina in Cartagena (photo: Josh Pulman)

When La Momposina returned to the UK the following year, Blair was the engineer on La Candela Viva (1993). It was during the recording of that album that she met John Hollis, who she persuaded to be her manager and push her music to the next level. “Having worked in Senegal, where traditional music was at the heart of culture and society, I found Colombia something of a shock,” remembers Hollis. “It felt like a country ill at ease with its Afro-Indigenous identity, a culture that looked to North America as a society to aspire to, with a record industry fixated on shallow commercial musical formulae and no interest in the great richness of traditional music it could have been developing into a formidable force.”

After unsuccessfully offering La Candela Viva to all the major labels in Colombia, Hollis had almost given up when he found the smaller label MTM, and, after 25 years of her career, La Momposina finally released an album in her home country.

Over the next ten years La Momposina toured the world, released a succession of lauded albums, and received awards across Europe and the Americas for her patronage of Colombian folk music, so that by the beginning of the 21st century she was able to return to Colombia a household name.

Since then, her music has continued to affect new generations, with break-out Colombian artists like Bomba Estéreo, Lido Pimienta and La Perla , as well as diasporic acts La Rueda and Akolá Tambó, all paying their debt. “She, with a few others, really kept cumbia alive, she protected it, in its purest form, for a long time,” testifies Richard Blair.

Totó la Momposina (photo: Yann Rabanier)

Totó la Momposina (photo: Yann Rabanier)

“When one makes music, ancestral music, you don’t make it so that it’s great for, how do I say, an anthropologist or philologist to listen to,” La Momposina told me back in 2015, “it’s so that what they are listening to has meaning, a real meaning, not just a feeling, but a sense of belonging and not for one to become fashionable, because ancestral music will always be in fashion.”

Through immense willpower, aided by a surfeit of dignity and humility, La Momposina has proven that which we should all have known from the start: the enduring relevance of our ancestral music. That’s a fine legacy.

This article originally appeared in the January 2023 issue of Songlines magazine. Life is better with great music in it – subscribe to Songlines today

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Carlos Vives: "Cuando me ven por la calle con la bicicleta, bromean con que me dieron un golpe y me dicen: '¿Vives?'"

El artista colombiano llega el próximo día 10 al Icónica Santalucía Sevilla Fest treinta años después de su primera actuación en España, que fue precisamente en la capital andaluza durante la Expo92.

Carlos Vives en 2023

  • El termómetro Carlos Vives: "Ya no tengo mito erótico porque me casé con ella"

Sólo tenía 6 años cuando su padre se dio cuenta de que cantaba y se le daba bien. Lo grababa, le fascinaba el timbre de su voz y lo comentaba con sus amigos médicos, al igual que él, algunos de ellos también músicos. Carlos Vives estudió en el Colegio Hispanoamericano Conde Ansúrez, en su Colombia natal, y las Matemáticas no eran lo suyo . Pero sí formar parte del coro y del grupo de teatro. Sus profesores, dos de ellos de Valladolid, le dijeron que no se preocupara.

Carlos pensaba estudiar Medicina para que su padre se sintiera orgulloso, pero acabó entrando en la Escuela Nacional de Arte Dramático a la vez que cantaba en bares por las noches. "Mi papá fue un médico muy querido y muy trabajador por la comunidad, y me enseñó a amar mucho y a entender y conocer a la gente. Mi abuela Elena tocaba el piano . Y mi abuela Lucía, por las fotos que vi de ella, era muy especial, como muy gitana".

Desde entonces, treinta años dedicados a la música que le han llevado a ser el primer artista latino en obtener un Grammy, más de 18 Grammy Latinos, ha sido nombrado Persona del Año por la Academia Latina de la Grabación, dos premios Onda y un sinfín de reconocimientos más, tras vender más de 20 millones de discos en todo el mundo. El colombiano llega el próximo día 10 al Icónica Santalucía Sevilla Fest para hacer bailar a todos.

Además, Carlos Vives es actor, ha escrito libros, trabaja con una fundación en su ciudad, Santa Marta, y es un gran conocedor de la Historia, de su país y de España.

"Con la tecnología es más fácil. Pero puedo hacer todo porque estoy bien casado, t engo una mujer maravillosa, Claudia Elena, quien por supuesto es más inteligente que yo y ha potencializado mi trabajo y mi carrera. Además, es fundamental tener un buen equipo", explica.

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Sin olvidar a sus hijos. "Tengo cuatro, dos de un primer matrimonio y dos con Claudia Elena. Duermo con dos de ellos . A mi hija mayor, Lucy, la veo menos porque vive en Estados Unidos. A Carlos lo veo más, porque él siempre fue muy cercano a su abuelo, mi papá. Se crio en Santa Marta, trabaja en el campo, se levanta y se acuesta muy temprano".

Habla con cariño de sus hermanos. "Somos cuatro. Mi hermano Guillermo canta, tiene restaurante y es chef, y de niños éramos los que más cantábamos juntos. Otro es médico como mi papá y el otro trabaja en Turismo".

Vives colabora activamente con una Fundación en la provincia de Santa Marta, "conocida como la Perla de la América , como la llamó el jesuita español Antonio Julián en 1760 porque producía las perlas más hermosas. Los que trabajamos en ella nos consideramos cazadores de perlas".

"Sigo las mismas causas de mi padre y trabajo en el Pescaíto, un barrio popular de Santa Marta, del que salieron grandes futbolistas, como el Pibe Valderrama o Radamel Falcao. Trabajamos por la primera infancia, por la infraestructura, hay muchos problemas básicos, con atraso en muchas cosas. Pero con unas bellezas que hay que rescatar. Es un trabajo muy bonito, y también con el apoyo de Claudia Elena y su hermana, que dirige la Fundación".

El lugar de su infancia lo marcó para su música, que no es folclore. "La música que escogí me regresó a todos esos lugares, a nuestra gente, hice para televisión varias historias sobre personajes iconos de nuestra cultura local... Y entendí que esa música me había dado la posibilidad de tener un público maravilloso, tanto dentro como fuera de Colombia".

"El día que no pueda atender a la gente con una sonrisa no salgo de mi casa. Agradezco su cariño y tengo claro para quién trabajo . Es la gente quien me compra las boletas, el disco, la camiseta, me quiere, me apoya, me paga las cuentas, y uno no puede olvidarse de dónde saca la comida y cómo ha criado a los hijos".

Le gusta cocinar y conoce la gastronomía española. "Me gusta todo. Nosotros también tenemos esa cultura de la sopa y de los pucheros y los postres que heredamos de ustedes, pero esas cosas comen allá... Como las torrijas en Semana Santa".

Conoce la de Sevilla. "Me parece increíble. En mi libro Cumbiana: relatos de un mundo perdido hablo de nuestra relación con España. Y cuento cómo por primera vez yo oí que le gritaban a la Virgen 'guapa', y cómo entendí enseguida que de ahí venía nuestro grito de alegría en nuestra música , que es el 'wepa'. Hay un capítulo que habla 'del guapa al wepa'. Y hablo de todo lo de ustedes que hay en nuestra cumbia, cultura, religión...".

La primera vez que actuó en España fue en Sevilla, en la Expo92. "El Gobierno de Colombia llevó muestras artísticas colombianas. Una de esas muestras era yo, que entonces estaba haciendo la serie 'Escalona' y había fundado mi banda La Provincia. La otra estrella que fue era Totó La Momposina, una de las divas de la cumbia".

Asegura que a su concierto en Sevilla, en Icónica, irá con conciencia de sevillano. "La Plaza de España, donde voy a cantar, siempre me llamó la atención. La última vez fui con mis hijos, cuando los Grammy Latinos. Sevilla siempre ha sido muy especial para nuestra tierra. Nos sentimos muy cercanos a toda esa cultura andaluza. Y Cádiz. Eran nuestros puertos. Mi ciudad, Santa Marta, cumple 500 años el próximo año. Ahora la hermanaremos con Sevilla, porque nuestras historias son mutuas. Un notario de Triana, Rodrigo de Bastidas, que llegó a América en el segundo viaje con Cristóbal Colón, fundó mi ciudad. Es la historia más linda que no le han contado a los españoles sobre el Descubrimiento de América, y se la voy a contar yo. Iré a Sevilla con la Alcaldía de mi ciudad y con la CAF (Banco de Desarrollo para América Latina)".

Juanes, durante su entrevista con LOC.

Juanes, sobre su depresión: "No podía mirarme al espejo ni escuchar mi música"

  • Redacción: ANA GARCÍA ROMERO

Se siente feliz de volver a la capital andaluza, "porque son años recorriéndola y reconociéndome en cada rincón. Viendo a mi abuela saliendo de una Misa de Sevilla. Mi abuela iba tres veces al día a Misa en Santa Marta, se ponía la mantilla, iba con su Rosario.. . Y cuando yo iba a Sevilla a una iglesia era como si la viera salir diez veces", cuenta riendo.

Tanto ajetreo necesita buena forma física. "Nos criamos en un equipo de fútbol, incluso mi papá pensó que yo sería futbolista. El ejercicio es para mí como un psicólogo. Cuando se cargan las cosas, salgo a correr, montar en bicicleta, senderismo, caminar... La sudada, eso que estaba tan mal visto en una época... En mis conciertos brinco durante más de dos horas, y tengo que tener pulmones y mucha resistencia. Es un escenario grande, yendo de un lado para otro, y mi música es para bailar todo el tiempo, no me puedo sentar en una silla".

Lo de la bicicleta, y con la canción que grabó con Shakira, ha dado lugar a chistes en Bogotá, donde reside. "Cuando me ven por la calle con la bicicleta, bromean contando que me dieron un golpe y se me acercan y me dicen '¿Vives?' y yo les digo 'Sí, Carlos Vives'", ríe.

Confiesa que no haría letras despechadas como su paisana. "Yo soy mayor, y soy romántico. Vengo de la escuela del bolero de mis papás y de la gente con que me crié, que somos radicalmente románticos. El vallenato de despecho no me gusta, porque en el original, los juglares eran campesinos pero ganadores y exitosos. Soy de otra escuela".

Colaboraciones con ella y con Luis Fonsi -acaban de lanzar el tema Santa Marta , del disco El Viaje , de Fonsi-, Rozalén, Diego Torres, Alejandro Sanz, Juan Luis Guerra ... "El primero que me invitó a cantar fue el brasileño Michel Teló. Con los que hay más afecto. Y de los artistas españoles he recibido mucho afecto. Nunca me lo esperé, siempre me sorprendió y me enseñó mucho".

Habla de su paisano Juanes . "Como lo sientes, como lo ves, así es él. Yo tenía un programa underground de televisión en el año 1991. Entonces nadie sabía de nuestras bandas, qué estaba pasando con los músicos jóvenes en Medellín, no había una industria, todo venía de fuera y lo colombiano que había era como antiguo, folclórico. Buscamos bandas por las ciudades y teníamos un catálogo. Tengo entrevistas hechas por mí a Juanes, que hacía tours por los pueblos de Antioquia (Colombia). Y nosotros apoyábamos todo eso. Después la vida nos puso en el mismo camino de abrir puertas , de ser artistas de una nueva generación en Colombia. Y por supuesto que hay una amistad, un cariño, un reconocimiento mutuo. Ya no era el rock prestado, ya había algo de herencia española, campesina, colombiana, lo llamé el rock de mi pueblo".

Y así ha titulado su gira. "Mi música no es folclórica; es moderna y nace de mis tradiciones y mi herencia musical. Hace 30 años, yo quería hacer música moderna pero siendo colombiano. Y tenía toda una tradición de músicas , heredada de ustedes, de nuestras culturas pre hispánicas , de nuestra herencia africana, de nuestras emigraciones sirio libanesas... En España durante mucho tiempo se hacían versiones de éxitos ingleses, italianos... Pero cuando llegué hace 30 años, Ketama tenía mucho de Andalucía y de Camarón, pero ya era un rock and roll".

Sebastián Yatra, Camilo, Maluma, Manuel Turizo , Cali y El Dandee, Juanes, Shakira, Carlos Vive s... Colombia conquista el mundo. "Porque somos un país diverso, como ustedes. Antes de nosotros hubo gente que también vio llegar cosas desde Colombia. Nuestra generación renovó sentimientos musicales, culturales, de nuestras identidades... Ya somos esa mezcla. Motivamos, inspiramos, a una nueva generación dentro del pop, rock, hip hop...".

De los nombres nuevos, "unos me gustan más y otros menos. Me encanta Sebastián (Yatra), es como un hijo ; y Camilo . Los adoro y son tan educados. Es una generación que mantiene sentimiento e identidad pero con su modernidad, su estilo y su talento. Estoy muy orgulloso de ellos. Y con un aprecio hacia la música en español, la latinoamericana, el vallenato, las raíces, cuidan el idioma y las palabras ... Todo eso les da herramientas importantes para la creatividad".

Carlos Vives está grabando una canción con Niña Pastori . "Ha sido de mis artistas favoritas desde que la conocí". Y también prepara su nuevo trabajo, 'El último disco'. "No va a ser mi última grabación, ni mucho menos. El título se refiere a que ahora casi no se hacen discos; sólo se busca la canción para pegar. Es un disco con invitados, como Niña Pastori y también con Juan Luis (Guerra), con una canción que habla de toda esa región que inspira a Gabo (Gabriel García Márquez) en Cien años de soledad , la ciénaga en la que, entre otros sitios, trabajamos con los pueblos anfibios, los que viven en palafitos".

Sigue comprando Cd's y Lp's "de todo tipo. Tengo rock argentino, Mecano y La Unión, Charly García y todos los argentinos... O Miguel Ríos. Aquí oíamos sus discos. Un día que cantamos en Bilbao, bajamos del escenario y ahí estaba él. Oí que ahora tiene una gira de conciertos de los no sé cuántos años. Y yo sintiéndome viejo con mis 30 años".

Y para el futuro lo tiene claro: "Soy de los que piensa que uno descansará el día en que se muera". Como Raphael. "¡Sería espectacular! Pero también tengo causas, como las de la Fundación, que van a requerir de nosotros para siempre. Que la edad nos dé salud para poder seguir, porque ya tenemos un compromiso con la comunidad, con la gente, y quiero ver nuevas generaciones con las mejores oportunidades en estos lugares. Me encantaría que todos los que estamos trabajando y uniendo esfuerzos podamos disfrutarlo también con nuestros hijos y nietos".

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toto la momposina tour

toto la momposina tour

Moscow City Tour

September 9, 2019 Our tour is underway now, and we begin with a Moscow city tour that focuses on the Kremlin. The Treasury and most of the churches we entered today would not allow photos inside, but the exterior shots are beautiful. Here are the day’s highlights.

toto la momposina tour

Moscow Free Day

toto la momposina tour

Nizhny Novgorod

One comment on “ Moscow City Tour ”

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So sorry to be missing this as I prepare for knee replacement and had to cancel. ;-(

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    Sonia Bazanta Vides (born 1 August 1940), better known as Totó la Momposina, is a Colombian singer of Afro-Colombian and Indigenous descent. She reached international attention with the release of her 1993 album La Candela Viva on Peter Gabriel's Real World Records label. Totó accompanied Gabriel García Márquez to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982 as part of a Colombian ...

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    Sonia Bazanta Vides, better known as Totó la Momposina, is a Colombian singer of Afro-Colombian and Indigenous descent. She reached international attention with the release of her 1993 album La Candela Viva on Peter Gabriel's Real World Records label. Totó accompanied Gabriel García Márquez to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982 as part of a Colombian cultural delegation ...

  16. Buy Toto la Momposina Tickets, Prices, Tour Dates & Concert Schedule

    Toto la Momposina Tour Dates & Concert Schedule. Toto la Momposina concert schedule typically includes a number of stops along their tour. However, there are some instances where the performances are limited to one city or venue or limited tour stops. Potentially see them perform at The Fox Theatre at Foxwoods, Arcada Theatre in St. Charles and ...

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    15 January 1948 (age 73) Born In. Bolívar, Colombia. Totó la Momposina (born Sonia Bazanta Vides on 1 August 1940) is a Colombian singer of Afro-Colombian and Indigenous descent. She reached international attention with the release of her 1993 album La Candela Viva on Peter Gabriel's Real World Records label.

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  21. Moscow City Tour

    September 9, 2019 Our tour is underway now, and we begin with a Moscow city tour that focuses on the Kremlin. The Treasury and most of the churches we entered today would not allow photos inside, but the exterior shots are beautiful. Here are the day's highlights.

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    T homas Koch aka DJ T. has been a vital part of electronic music and club culture for over 20 years. Uniquely accomplished in both influence and scope, he has excelled in every one of his incarnations: DJ, label owner, producer, club operator, publisher and journalist. Having recently closed one chapter of his working life - behind the scenes of Get Physical Music management - DJ T. is now ...

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    Argentine tango. "La Cumparsita" M.Rodriguez ("Solo Tango" version). Plays the "Solo Tango" Orchestra - the first European Tango Orchestra, which received in...

  24. Tracy, Mfr Souls, MDU aka TRP, Moscow on Keyz, Springle

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