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Totó La Momposina (CO)

Legendary Colombian vocalist Toto la Momposina brings together the music of three races, indigenous porro, puya and gaita with Afro-Latin cumbia, mapale and sexteto. Toto was born in the northern village of Talaigua, Colombia, on the island of Mompos. As its name suggests, Talaigua was once an Indigenous land. The Spanish invasion five hundred years ago forced the population inland. "The music I play has its roots in mixed race," she explains. "The flutes are pre-columbian, the drums of course are from Africa, and the guitar from the conquistadors." However, she points out that the Spanish guitar actually has its roots in Moorish Africa.

If many of her songs sound a bit Cuban, it is for good reason. Through the 19th century, t...

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