For the indie audience from the USA, it might be hard to conceptualize Colombian band Bomba Estéro. First there's the problematic definition of "World Music" which is unfortunately lumped in with Puto Mayo comps at your local Starbucks and your crazy aunt who wears one too many bead necklaces. Second there's the strong ties that the band has to Colombian musical traditions and forms like cumbia. Finally, there's the defiant vocal stylings of Liliana Saumet -- an emcee of prodigious skill and unbelievable live performer -- which, let's face it, aren't easy to categorize in the reductive world of lady leads.
What's impossible to deny is the unbridled energy and riveting music that Bomba Estéro makes. At the base is a strong study of Latin rhythms which are transformed in crashing electro-psychedelia. At the NYC club, Sounds of Brasil (SOB), last month, I got to see the group live and it was one of the most incredible live shows of my life. Saumet is the rival of just about any frontman (or woman) out there and the band is top-notch, lead by Simón Mejía. Mejía's particular genius lies in the reinvention of the cumbia tradition in the context of 70s Latin psychedelia and the better moments of the electro-ecstasy songs. It's music that engages your whole body and spirit whether you know Spanish or not. Cumbia is a traditional Colombian form that originated in the Caribbean as a way for West African slaves to keep their musical traditions and as such it was changed into a courtship ritual. As the process of colonization is wont to do, other instruments and traditions were laid atop. Bomba Estéro's usage of the cumbia as one of the main rhythmic elements stands in stark contrast to another, more famous Colombian, Shakira, whose turn to the USA transformed her into into a sort of Latina Britney Spears -- exotic for show. Shakira is, in many ways an export, whereas Bomba Estéro is a living agent effecting the traditions of music with diverse and hypnotic instruments.
The group has 2 proper records: Vol. 1 and Blow Up. An EP, Ponte Bomb, was released in January. They've been making the festival circuit as well, playing Bonnaroo, SXSW, & Bumbershoot in 2010 but they need a bigger audience. So, get after it, kids. Trust me. It's the only way to party in the summer. And if you need more pressing, check out the vids below:
"Pa' Respirar" & "Cosita Rica"