BOMBA ESTEREO:The New Wave of Latin Music

593ab116-171d-48b1-bbe0-b4fa703959df By: Daisy Solis

It is fair to say that music throughout Latin America has taken quite the turn over the years and has evolved in a kaleidoscope of ways and Bomba Estéreo, whose style, coincidently, has been described as “kaleidoscopic and danceable”, is no stranger to that! This group lives up to their explosive moniker with an infectiously groove-able sound that often expands into territory never touched by modern Latin bands. You have to love the loping Cumbia-funk and yummy groove, excellent for some fun-under-the -Summer-sun. Did anyone ever think Cumbia would be so cool? Actually, I did/do!

Bomba Estéreo was founded in Bogotá in 2005 by Simón Mejía. Their music has been described as ‘electro tropical” or “psychedelic Cumbia“. According to Mejía, the band’s name is a Colombian term for “a really cool, awesome, bad ass party.” His words not mine! But hey, we believe in being direct here and true to ourselves, right? Bomba Estéreo is a funky underground talent reveling genre-busting linguistics. Lead vocalist Liliana Saumet’s sultry style is a hybridization of Nelly Furtado with the precision and swag of M.I.A. Saumet’s vocals hold everything seamlessly together, preventing Bomba Estéreo from sounding like yet another combo wanly mixing tropical styles with club beats. She has a forceful, full-throated attack; she can rap with rhythmic ingenuity, nonchalantly juggling American hip-hop, reggaeton, and dancehall, but she can also sing passionately, nailing melodies with impressive pitch control and emotional snap. I asked the band about their thoughts on traditional Columbian Cumbia influencing their style, their newest album and why Deejaying at weddings is their guilty pleasure! So let’s hear from the group who’s been described as, “Joan Jett & the Blackhearts with a hot Cumbia twist:

ALEGRIA: “I love Cumbia! I grew up on it. As a little girl, I remember Sunday mornings at my house before church:  all you would hear was Bolero, Ranchera and Cumbia.   I have always appreciated all Latin music and l love, love, love Salsa! Absolutely love Salsa! But Cumbia is so nostalgic for me and it’s the music that gives me the most ALEGRIA when I hear it. Being that Cumbia has been around for so long, I have read that you call it, ‘la nueva musica Latina’, why is that?”

BOMBA: “I don´t call Cumbia ‘la nueva musica Latina’, I call  Bomba’s music and all the new music that is happening nowadays in Latin America ‘la nueva música Latina’. Bomba is not a Cumbia band. We use Cumbia as a source of inspiration, but we’re very far now from the traditional sound of Cumbia, especially now in our new album.
Going back in Bomba’s history, Cumbia was the main rhythm inspiration for starting the project. I began to search back in 2005 the rhythm patterns that Cumbia and tropical Afro-Colombian music could share with electronic music and reggae and I came up with this sound. Liliana, Bomba´s vocalist, has a lot of inspiration from Cumbia as she grew up in that particular place where Cumbia was born: Colombia´s Caribbean Coast.
Cumbia is a genre that emerged from the mixture between Africans, indigenous people and white people during colonial times here in Colombia. Original Cumbia in its most rooted state is from Colombia. During the 50s, 60s and 70s it expanded with the record industries all over Latin America. So now we have Cumbia resonating from Mexico to Argentina and all over the place and each one is different in style. So more than the new Latin music, I would say Cumbia, across all its beautiful history, is the music that joins us as Latins, ‘es la columna vertebral de América Latina.'”

ALEGRIA: “Do you believe that Elegancia Tropical is the album that fully brought about your current style?”

BOMBA: “I think our latest album, Amanecer, is the one that describes where we’re heading to.”

ALEGRIA: “How is it that you came to fuse traditional Colombian Cumbia and Afro-Columbian rhythms with electronic music?  Who were your greatest influences?”

BOMBA: “Just jamming in my studio, blending one rhythm over the other, trying to mix music from one side and the other…experimenting.  All Colombian folk players were a big influence over that time as well such as Joe Arroyo, 70s dub from Jamaica and House music.”

ALEGRIA: “You are one of the few bands that have successfully fused traditional Colombian music with modern styles like electronica, causing people outside of Colombia to take notice, especially due to the different music festivals you’ve played at. Do you think this has caused people to appreciate more traditional Colombian styles of music?”

BOMBA: “Yes, and we’re very pleased that this is happening as the real music masters of all this history are the traditional players from Colombia.A few years ago, Cumbia and folk music from Colombia was not even known in the world, now it’s almost a trend…you see it played in festivals, released in compilations made in Europe, etc, etc.”

ALEGRIA: ”Why is it that you believe that Cumbia is the spinal column (columna vertebral) of Latin American music?”

BOMBA: “It was born in Colombia, expanded through all Latin America, and nowadays it crosses from México to Argentina and varies in style according to the country. It’s a very beautiful phenomenon.”


ALEGRIA: “FUEGO has had quite the impact! There are an infinite amount of remixes of that song! Has this taken you by surprise? Were you prepared for this song to be a ‘single’?”

BOMBA: “Never, it just happened Live, playing it all over the world and sharing it with the people, so it’s a very organic process as well as with the remixes.”


ALEGRIA: “So why the big break between ‘Elegancia Tropical’ and ‘Fiesta’? I noticed that this album is a little more on the chill side, was that the original idea or it just so happened that way?”

BOMBA: “It’s a more electronic album, it’s an evolution of Bomba’s sound into the future.”

ALEGRIA: “I heard it through the grapevine that you enjoy being DJs at weddings, having shared the stage with some pretty big names in the music industry, why does this bring you great ALEGRIA?”

BOMBA: “It´s a celebration of Love and that´s the best place to put some music in!”

I couldn’t agree more, after all, you know my motto: “Live, Laugh, Love…DANCE!”


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