Legal name: Sonia Bazanta Vides
Sonia Bazanta Vides, better known as Totó la Momposina, is a Colombian singer of Afro-Colombian and Indigenous descent.
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 Totó 's 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.
Totó hails – as did her ancestors – from the village of Talaigua, at the heart of an island in the great Magdalena river, called Mompox (hence 'la Momposina'). The river, which rises high in the Andes, stretches over a thousand miles to the Caribbean. In the sixteenth century Spanish invasions forced the Indians – the original inhabitants of Mompos – to flee into the island's dense forests. In later years, runaway slaves intermarried with them. 'The music I play', explains Totó, 'has its roots in a mixed race; being African and Indian, the heart of the music is completely percussive.' The cumbia is one of the better known rhythms and dances of Colombia. This rhythm is powerfully hypnotic and, along with the dance and its costume, a fine example of the mixture of Indian, Spanish and African influences: The dance originated as a courting dance between African men and Indian women at the time when the two communities began to intermarry. In this gentle, sensual dance the women hold up lit candles as the pairs weave in and out.
She reached international attention with the release of her 1993 album La Candela Viva on Peter Gabriel's Real World Records label.