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Liliana Obregón

Totó la Momposina, as she is known, was born Sonia Bazanta in the town of Talaigua, Colombia, on the river island of Mompós, from which she took her stage name. The small towns on the Magdalena River (on Mompós and in surrounding areas, including Soplaviento, Palenque de San Basilio, Botón de Leyva, and Altos del Rosario) are heirs to a rich Afro-Indian musical tradition. Originally inhabited by indigenous peoples, during the colonial period these areas became a safe haven for fugitive slaves, who built fortified villages known as palenques.

Totó is a fourth-generation musician—her grandfather was an accordionist, her father is a traditional drummer (tambolero), and her mother was a traditional singer (cantadora). Totó’s parents and family sought to preserve secular and sacred musical forms played at religious festivals, funerals, ritual ceremonies, and local carnivals. From an early age, Totó learned the Afro-Colombian rhythms of chandé, mapalé, fandango ...