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Distinguished Artist Award 2014
Distinguished ARTIST Award
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Totó la Momposina | 2014 Distinguished Artist Award Recipient

Totó la Momposina will receive the 2014 International Citation of Merit at the Bogotá 2014 ISPA Congress, What the Arts Move. View other ISPA Award winners.

Totó la Momposina

A magnificent singer and dancer, Totó La Momposina has earned respect and admiration in many parts of the world for the power and spontaneity of her performance. Drawing on the music and dance of the Colombian Caribbean, her work is informed and inspired by a rich cultural mix that combines elements from African, Native Indian and Spanish traditions. This an expression of a culture that has its origins in Africa (via the slaves brought to work in the Americas), Spain (through the influence of the invading colonists) and South America (from the indigenous Indian population).

On stage her dynamic repertoire is accompanied by a range of traditional drums, gaitas, brass, tiple, bass, guitar, percussion and chorus. She presents rhythms such as the cumbia, bullerenge, chalupa, garabato and mapale from Colombia´s Caribbean coast alongside the Cuban son, guaracha, rumba and bolero son that arrived in Colombia via the village of San Basilio de Palenque.

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 the cost. 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. In Talaigua Ramona Ruiz, a fine cantadora now in her eighties who tutored the teenage Toto, continues to keep this tradition alive. In this community of peasant farmers and fishermen Ramona dispenses everything from marital advice to herbal medicine and as a vivacious and inspired chande (fiesta and also a rhthym of Talaigua) leader, is able to rustle up a full complement of drummers, singers and dancers. The songs that the villagers sing to accompany their daily tasks are 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.

Toto´s based herself in France for four years, studying the history of dance for a year at the Sorbonne and performing extensively in Europe, though most frequently in France and Germany. She recorded her first album during this period in Paris. In 1987 she returned to Colombia and continued to perform both at home and further afield in Latin America and the Caribbean. She also spent time in Cuba where she studied the bolero. In 1991 WOMAD brought her back to Europe and she performed at their festivals in Japan, Canada, England, Germany, Spain and Finland. She recorded “La Candela Viva” in 1992 for Real World Records and Carmelina for MTM in 1995, followed by Pacanto in 1998. Over the last decade she has also performed in Spain, England, Scotland, Wales, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Holland, Belgium, Slovenia, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Poland, Korea, USA, Mexico, Cuba and on seven other Caribbean islands.

In 2002 she was nominated for the Latin Grammy Award for best traditional tropical album for “Gaitas y Tambores”. She has played among the most reconized musicians like Vox Dei, Los Jaivas, León Gieco, Víctor Heredia, Gilberto Gil, Jaime Roos, Calle 13, Gustavo Santaolalla and Pablo Milanes and others. She has won multiple awards for her career achievement.

The Ministry of Culture gives her the Life and Work prize 2011 also In March 2012, Toto is named Honorary Citizen by Andean Community in Lima, Peru.

The group Toto la Momposina and her drums , is a permanent guest in the main scenarios of the world; being the most important artist of the folklore of Colombia. In July 2013 she was invited to Cuba to participate in the Fire Festival, event organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, where the Festival had a special tribute to her musical career, in September she was awarded with the National Prize of Culture by the University of Antioquia. In November 2013 was nominated again for the Latin Grammy. In 2014 Toto will be in a tour for several cities in Europe.

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