The Totó WOMAD story written by festival creator Thomas Brooman

At the start of the eighties, in the early days of Womad, there were very few music agencies in the UK representing international artists from anywhere other than the USA. So in 1983 and 1984 a somewhat random but quite productive means of research and enquiry for the festival was to visit Paris on a shoestring budget and with just a hunch or two of where some artists might be found. One starting point was to visit the record shop where we know a favourite artist’s records were being sold and to ask where to go from there…hoping that ‘back home’ would not be the reply! In this manner, in early 1983, I travelled to Paris with my old friend and partner in crime Alan James, in pursuit of Kanda Bongo Man from Zaire, who we had been told was living in Paris. In just a few days we had tracked Kanda down to a nightclub in Montmartre and an invitation was duly made for him to come over to London that summer for a season of WOMAD concerts we were planning at the ICA. The visit went ahead and Kanda played on two consecutive nights, sharing the stage with Misty in Roots on one of the nights and Jah Wobble’s Invaders of the Heart on the second. Flushed with this early success, I returned to Paris in the spring of 1984, together with Joanna, my wife at the time, and her two singer friends, Wendy and Sarah. They went out busking every day, honing tunes for the band they were forming. My agenda was the still-fledgling Womad Festival... read more

Michel Cleis – La Mezcla

It was the beginning of summer 2008, I had just returned home to Lausanne from holiday in Colombia with my girlfriend at the time (half-Swiss, half-Colombian), where we’d been visiting family and discovered wonderful nature spots, amazing food and, of course, music. I did not know a lot about Colombian music and my first contact with this percussive sound was listening to a song called La Tortuga by Joe Arroyo. I loved the rhythmic energy and asked the family for more music with this feel. I was convinced I could try something with the sound and that it might be possible to adapt it for the dance-floor.   I was gardening at home in Lausanne when my friend came up to me with La Candela Viva in her hands. She just said: “You should listen to this singer, I’m sure you’ll love her.” That album is responsible for radical changes in my life. Totó’s voice is extraordinary: Love, roots, energy are the three words that come to mind thinking about her music. There is something really fresh there and so close to nature somehow – really different compared to most of the music I had listened to before. Back in my studio, I listened carefully to the album, looking for percussive ideas and sensing that there might be even more there. I don’t know what kind of magic occurred in those sessions: rhythms, harmonies and notes were coming together really fast – which is a big deal for me – and, in around 14 days, my tune, La Mezcla, was born. At that time I was already working with... read more
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