Words by Russ Slater
Rather than simply remaster the breakthrough 1993 album, La Candela Viva, from the Afro-Colombian singer Totó la Momposina, the folks at Real World found some of her alternate takes, as well as a couple of unreleased demos, polished them up, added new backing vocals and have released the results as a new album. Tambolero thus is a reimagining of La Candela Viva, and although anyone who possesses the original will feel this sounds wholly unnecessary, it only takes one listen to these versions to realise this was a good idea. Her voice is soaked in an extra warmth, with the drums sounding more powerful than ever, and the backing vocals are much improved – recorded freshly for the release by members of Totó’s family. It allows us to appreciate cumbia classics like ‘El Pescador’ and the title-track, as if they were recorded anew. Even better is the remastering of ‘La Sombra Negra’ and its Cuban son flavours, which radiate with much more intensity this time around. In ‘Gallinacito’ and ‘Tambolero’, the two unreleased demos-cum-new tracks, we are also treated to two fine additions to Totó’s cumbia oeuvre. An ingenious, and justified, remastering project.