Monday, November 2, 2009

In review--High-Octane Colombian

Totò La Momposina
La Bodega

Colombian vocalist Totò La Momposina came to my attention in 2004, when her delicious cumbia, Yo Me Llamo Cumbia appeared on the Putumayo compilation Women of Latin America, alongside Chilean Mariana Montalvo, Brazilian Monica Salmaso, Colombian Marta Gòmez and others. She headlined in the Putumayo Presents Women in Latin America tour along with Brazilian Belo Velloso and Mariana Montalvo (mentioned earlier), and if she did not rouse audience members physically, she most certainly roused them emotionally.

So years later, I am pleased to receive her recording, La Bodega. Released on an independent label, Totò offers us songs that you cannot sit still while listening to them. In fact, I flew out of my chair and found myself dancing throughout my small apartment. I knew that in order to write this review, I would need to do so in silence because those Afro-Colombian cross-rhythms, thumping beats, punchy brass and Totò’s alto vocals, left me second-guessing if I had Colombian ancestry.

And the vocalist steeped in Colombian music traditions, (especially that which finds its roots with African slaves), struts her stuff on this recording. Her signature cumbia, Yo Me Llamo Cumbia shows up here along with a Cuban son, Dueña de los Jardines and the tribal Afro-Colombian Tembandumba, which recalls Afro-Cuban rumba and Afro-Brazilian samba with its heavy beats and chant-like vocals. The opener, Manita Uribe gets the blood pumping full steam ahead and after that track, Totò performs one festive number after another. By the end, listeners might be thinking of hopping a plane to Colombia or nearby Venezuela to sample the various rhythms, instruments (percussions, lutes, flutes) and dances.  While you hear a lot of negative news about these South American countries, what you don't hear about is the fabulous music and the warm-hearted musicians that perform this music.  Certainly they are worth getting to know.

We might be experiencing static gray weather here in the Pacific Northwest, but listening to Totò’s Bodega invites me to throw a one-person party in my kitchen. This album finds me in a festive mood and no doubt anyone who listens to it, will remember why they were given hips and feet. Baila!

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