The Colombian party bands music is a melange of global influences but they are unshakably a proud Latin duo with their eyes fixed on the rest of the world
Colombias Bomba Estreo whip up an irresistible carnival of rhythm. Currently on tour in the US, the tropical-electro-cumbia duo from Bogot take risks and embrace evolution they recently teamed up with the Bay area-born producer Ricky Reed (who has worked with Jason Derulo, Pitbull and Jessie J) and added a hip-hop element to their sound but their identity is rock solid and proudly Colombian. We are a hybrid culture, said the bands founder, Simn Meja, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times last year. We [Colombians] are a race that comes from Africans, Indians and whites. We have European influence and we have Arabic influence.
The bands single, Soy Yo (I Am Me) sums up this attitude. Its a confident anthem of self-expression from their latest album, Amanecer. The song is about being comfortable in your own skin and at the same time revere others for who they are, the lead singer, Liliana Saumet, says. Whether we are talking about someones race, age or sexual identity, we wanted to have something in the album that talked about confidence and respect.
The video, directed by the Danish director Torben Kjelstrup, perfectly encapsulates Bombas message. In it , a youth charismatically played by 11-year-old Sarai Gonzalez walks confidently through the streets of New York after leaving the hair salon, not letting any side-stares or judging looks get her down. In fact, she confronts them triumphantly, one by one.
The video has made an impact (arts website Remezcla called it an ode to little brown girls everywhere) and amassed more than 3m views on YouTube. There is a strong and passionate connection between the Colombian band and the Latino community, but their appeal goes beyond just one demographic. Despite the fact that we have a Latin perspective, our message is global you dont have to be Latino to understand what were about, says Saumet.
Bomba Estreo have come a long way since their first release, 2006s Volumen 1 a seven-song EP in which they explored who they were as a band. By the time 2008s Estalla was released, they were fully aware of their sound and the US began to pay attention. In 2010, viewers of MTV Iggy, the channels outlet for alternative and global artists which shut down last year voted them as the best new band in the world and since then, Bomba Estreo have only become more widescreen, eclectic and innovative. Now, with Amanecer, they have created something unique.
Alongside the bands patent high-energy party sound, Amanecer also features more introspective moments, exploring issues of self-growth, love and discovery. In Algo Est Cambiando (Something is Changing), Saumet sings: I am who I am and who I have to be / And I go where I go without losing me. Admittedly in Spanish the lyrics have a much smoother flow, but what is not lost in translation is Saumets intensity. I wrote this song during a crucial stage in my life, where I was going through a lot internally, she says. And when we feel something is happening inside of us, effectively it affects our lives, whether its positive or negative. For me, in this particular case, it was a positive energy, as a lot was going on around me at the time.
Saumet has been through a lot over the years. She lost her then boyfriend, Alexis Bechu, to suicide in 2014; last year she married Canadian Brian Rea. Now that she is a mother, she prefers yoga and meditation over late-night partying a total contrast from her onstage persona with Meja, the other half of the 11-year partnership. Meja is a master of experimentation who blends cumbia, salsa and Latin pop with electronica and reggaeton-infused energy. Take the 2008 crowd-pleaser Fuego, in which the band entice the listener with playful Colombian dancehall mixed with Saumets flirtatious voice and lyrics.