LATINO VOICES

Bomba Estéreo Experiments With Explosive Dance Beats In 'Amanecer'

Simon Mejía, left, and Lilian Saumet of Bomba Estéreo. 
Simon Mejía, left, and Lilian Saumet of Bomba Estéreo. 

Bomba Estéreo built their sound by fusing together the folkloric and tropical sounds of their native Colombia with modern beats. But with their recently released fourth album, “Amanecer,” the group’s Cumbia-infused songs take the backseat as new high-powered electronic dance tracks call shotgun.

That’s not to say that the Latin Grammy-nominated group, comprised of singer Liliana Saumet and multi-instrumentalist Simon Mejía, have forgotten their roots as evident by the album’s lead single “Fiesta,” which is inspired by Barranquilla’s colorful carnival.  

The duo recently finished the first leg of their mostly sold-out U.S. tour, which included a performance at New York City’s Highline Ballroom Friday. The group will return to Colombia this week and come back to the U.S. for a final appearance in November at Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, Texas.

Mejía recently spoke to The Huffington Post about how “Amanecer” sets itself apart from their past albums and how he’s seen their audience grow in the United States.

“Amanecer” was released a bit over a month ago. How do you describe this album?

We’re very happy with the result. It’s an album that we made in a very different way than what we have done in the past, it has a very different sound. We’re exploring other rhythms, other sounds -- we could say that Cumbia isn’t as present and that we went off that script and that style. It’s an experimental album.

We worked with Los Angeles producer [Ricky Reed], so he also gave a lot of his input and his experience and brought a lot of new things to Bomba Estéreo’s sound. And also conceptually it’s an album that has a very positive message, very spiritual.

Speaking of that shift from Cumbia to a more electronic sound, “Fiesta” is a very upbeat first single.

We chose the song as the first single because we thought it summarized all of the record’s energy and the essence of Bomba Estéreo, which is to combine folk music with tropical music. In the case of “Fiesta,” it’s an homage to Barranquilla’s Carnival in Colombia, and it’s about Liliana’s particular experience of being a part of one of the comparsas [or Carnival groups] that performs in Barranquilla every year. Some of the lyrics talk about that experience of being in Carnival and transforming yourself to go out, do a musical and dance performance and then in a radical cut going to another party. Like jumping from Barranquilla’s Carnival to any other electronic music party in the world with the same costume, so we thought it’d be cool to present it that way [in the video].

What other tracks stand out in “Amanecer”?

My favorite song is called “Caderas” and I love it because of its rhythm, it allows you to really dance and it has a lot of power. And it also sounds incredible live.

Bomba Estéreo was invited to Coachella in 2011. What was it like to be a part of such a big music festival in the United States?

Fortunately, the public welcomed us very well. We performed during the day but it was an honor to be there and a part of that lineup alongside great and important artists. We’re very grateful.

This tour wasn't the first time you performed in New York City. But how does The Big Apple set itself apart from other cities?

Playing in New York is like playing in London, they’re music epicenters. There is a lot of energy and a lot of vibrations in the air.

Have you noticed any changes in your audience? Do you find that Americans make their way to your concerts? 

Increasingly our audience is more mixed, every single time there are more North Americans. Colombians -- especially the women who live here in the U.S. -- generally have boyfriends that are North American and they bring them along. Then the boyfriends tell their friends and by word of mouth it’s grown and now a Bomba Estéreo concert can be half Colombian and half Americans.

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