Her music combines African and indigenous elements as it happened during the time of the Spanish colonization in America. The rhythms that were born from that fusion were multiple being the most representative such as the gaita, cumbia, porro, chalupa, sextet and mapalé.
She belongs to the fourth generation of a family dedicated to music, she learned to dance and sing since she was a child because her father was a percussionist and her mother was a singer and dancer. In 1964, together with his parents and brothers he formed his first group. After studying at the conservatory of the National University of Colombia and performing several international tours, in 1982 he accompanied Gabriel García Márquez to receive the Nobel Prize in literature in Stockholm, Sweden.
She recorded his first production in France in 1983. She then travelled around Europe and studied at the Sorbonne University in Paris, as well as at other institutions in Santiago de Cuba and Havana.
In 1991 she participated in the Cervantino Festival of Guanajuato and the Caribbean Music Festival in Cancun, both in Mexico. That year she was invited by WOMAD (World Music Arts and Dance), the foundation of Peter Gabriel, to record with the Real World label the album "La Candela Viva" that appeared in 1993. In 1992 he represents Colombia at the World Fair held in Seville, Spain .
In 2002 she was nominated for the Latin Grammy Award for Best Traditional Tropical Album by Gaitas y Tambores. Later, in 2010 she was invited to participate in the Latin American night of the celebrations for the Bicentenary of Argentina, on May 22, along with great Latin American singers. She has collaborated with artists such as Calle 13, Lila Downs, Celso Piña, Mónica Giraldo, Alfonso Espriella and Jorge Celedón.
In 2006, she received in Seville the Womex prize, the most important award of Word Music; in 2011 the Ministry of Culture of Colombia awarded him the National Award Life and Work. In 2015 the Latin Grammy Academy honored her with the Musical Excellence Award for her outstanding career, and in 2017 she was recognized by the National Pedagogical University of Colombia with the title of Doctor Honoris Causa in Education.