The somber horns, meandering guitar and tentative drums at the outset of this CD soon shift gears and burst into lively celebration, and once the voice of Totó La Momposina is in the thick of the chorus, all of Colombia's African, indigenous and European roots are joyously entwined. Toto's been the leading lady of Colombian music for some time, always drawing upon traditional sources while maintaining a progressive spirit and vision that has produced such albums as 2001's stunning Pacanto, which was propelled by a contemporary African undercurrent that enriched the music magnificently. La Bodega doesn't quite match the heights of that classic though it similarly builds on a folkloric foundation of drums and vocal blueprints handed down from generations of village cantadoras who lead people in song and often serve as herbal healers as well. Fitting, given the medicinal quality of the music here. Totó La Momposina's lusty singing is nudged to full-blooded heights by an accompaniment of hand drums, small percussion, gaita flutes made from cactus wood, brass, strings and a chorus that shouts approval of her declarations at every turn.
An occasional addition of violin, marimba or accordion veers the sound toward such popular Colombian styles as vallenato and the concluding "Fiesta Vieja" winds up the disc on a distinctly cumbia note. Still, a mainly rural sound, not an urban one, guides La Bodega. The album's centerpiece, inspired by the late Colombian master drummer Batata, thunderously demonstrates as much: "Tembandumba" builds like any straight-from-Africa invocation of the Yoruba pantheon, re-connecting Totó La Momposina's homeland to the other side of the Atlantic and resounding with the kind of inspiration heard throughout. This is Afro-Colombian music at its best. - Tom Orr