Until you travel to a different continent it can be hard to appreciate how ingrained you are in your own culture. For me there’s no better measure of this than the music. I’ve mentioned salsa as an example quite often, since to begin with I couldn’t differentiate the quality of what I was hearing and subsequently wrote a great deal of it off as cheesy and shallow. I’ve since changed my mind, but what has stuck with me is the lesson that you can’t be quick to judge music you’re not used to since chances are you just haven’t ‘got’ it yet. This happens a lot in South America, and happened with Carlos Vives, who I wrote about last week on the Colombia Travel Blog.
There are some bands, however, that require very little time for you to understand. One such band is Bomba Estereo who are, arguably, Colombia’s biggest band. What I love and respect about Bomba Estereo is that they are accessible to all audiences and yet retain strong influences from traditional styles of music that aren’t so accessible, such as cumbia.
Bomba Estereo formed in 2001 in Bogotá. They were initially a collaborative project brought together by Símon Mejía, a visual and sound artist from Colombia. Soon, however, Mejía sought to stabilize the line-up and, following the modestly successful Vol. 1, employed the help of a permanent drummer, guitarist and singer. It is now singer Liliana Saumet’s distinctive pipes that are the most instantly recognizable feature of the band’s sound.
This is not to say they lack anything in the musical department. Blending elements of hip-hop, psychedelic, indie, electronica, pop, tropical and cumbia they both absorb and reflect their rich cultural roots while remaining remarkably experimental and contemporary.
Their biggest single, ‘Fuego’, was featured on FIFA 2010 and began to pave the way for future successes in Europe and the US. The single is taken from 2008 album Estalla (Blow Up in the States) which they are currently touring in Europe and, after, the States.
Bomba Estereo have paved the way for Colombian independent music to be exposed to the world and following them is a slew of bands (more on them later) that promise to build on Colombia’s reputation as a music power house for the future.
Enjoy my favorite song below: Fuego.