A Colombian Star in Cornwall: The Totó la Momposina Interview

A Colombian Star in Cornwall: The Totó la Momposina Interview

As the mercury drops and winter shows its teeth, we’re casting our memories back to the hot and sunny days at the height of summer – and this year’s fantastic Tropical Pressure Festival.

Saturday night’s headline act was the legendary (Latin Grammy Award winning) Colombian singer Totó la Momposina. She performed an amazing set of cumbia and traditional Colombian folk music with her band as the sun set over the sea, and it was an absolute highlight of the weekend. Following the festival, we were fortunate enough to catch up with Totó la Momposina (real name Sonia Bazanta Vides) before she continued a European tour, to ask this Colombian star a few questions about her Cornish experience.

You first visited England to perform in 1984 – on any of your visits since, have you ever visited or performed in Cornwall?

Yes, I visited Cornwall to play a show in Penzance about 15 years ago.


What are your impressions of this region of the UK, and of the festival, Tropical Pressure, that you just performed at?

Cornwall is a very beautiful region, it looks a lot like the countryside in the interior of Colombia. It’s a place that I would like to visit for a vacation. Tropical Pressure is a small festival that is just starting out, but I found the organization and its attention to detail to be really good.


You talked on stage of the importance of the environment, and specifically of water. What are your hopes for the future of Colombia’s rivers, forests, and natural resources?

In Colombia we don’t have a lot of awareness about the environment and all this starts at home. We must educate the children so that they love and take care of all our natural resources in order to protect them.


It looks from your performance as though you still love getting on stage. What is your favourite part of your job?

The concerts, since I feel the energy of the people. It makes me feel like a kid again!


You’ve recently released an album, La Verdolaga, which celebrates your musical journey. When you started performing, did you ever think that it’d be the start of a career lasting more than six decades, so far?

No never, it was always – and still is – a challenge.


The style of music that you perform, the cumbia, is unique to Colombia’s Caribbean coast and has a long history. As a cultural ambassador for cumbia, what is the message that you want to share through your music?  

Cumbia is one of the styles that I sing among many. The message that I want to share is a message of a sense of belonging, of teaching Colombians to love what is ours and today, more than anything, a message of peace.

This autumn, Totó la Momposina released Oye Manita, the third album in her retrospective series that tells the amazing stories of Totó’s life and travels to date. Part 1, Tambolero (2015), told the story of her relationship with England, recreating the original La Candela Viva album – adding recordings and mixing everything afresh and effectively becoming a new record. Oye Manita (2018) focuses on her relationship with France dating back to the 1970s, and the La Verdolaga (2018) vinyl LP release is a bridge between the two, with both chapters meeting on side A (Tambolero) and B (Oye Manita) as the collections work in parallel and the stories of France and England inter-relate. Find it, wherever you get your music from!