Bomba Estéreo strives to save the planet and soothe the heart

When Bomba Estéreo, the Colombian duo of Simón Mejía and Liliana Saumet, almost finished recording their sixth studio album, “Deja”, the...

When Bomba Estéreo, the Colombian duo of Simón Mejía and Liliana Saumet, almost finished recording their sixth studio album, “Deja”, the group participated in an age-old ritual: a pagamento, or payment. It’s a ceremony “to pay back what you took from the Earth,” Mejía explained in a video interview from her home studio in Bogotá.

At a sacred site in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta – snow-capped mountains on Colombia’s Caribbean coast that are still home to indigenous groups – Bomba Estéreo spent a night making offerings and sharing a deep conversation with a mamo, a shaman of the Arhuaco people.

As the ceremony concluded, Mejía asked the mamo, Manuel Nieves, to visit Saumet’s workshop, at her home in Santa Marta, and to record a message for the audience; it became the last words of the album. Speaking in Arhuaco, the mamo calls for the preservation of the endangered environment, warning against climate change and concluding: “On this Earth, our duty is to take care of Mother Nature”.

In a video from Santa Marta, Saumet said, “What we’re talking about on this album is connection. Connection with nature, connection with people, connection with everything around us.

Over the past 15 years, the combination of Mejía’s music and production and Saumet’s voice, melodies and lyrics have made Bomba Estéreo major hits across Latin America, such as “Soy Yo,” a call for empowerment. and “To my love,” both from the 2015 album “Amanecer”.

From its inception, as a solo studio project for Mejía, Bomba Estéreo set out to merge electronics with a Colombian heritage that encompasses indigenous, African and European recombinations. “Colombia is about mix and diversity – we have it in our DNA,” said Mejía. “We are not a thing. We are many things at the same time in this crazy and conflicting little territory.

For Bomba Estéreo, he said, “The concept was trying to make electronic music that was original, that was not a copy of the electronic music that was made in London or New York or Detroit or Berlin. It was a sort of identity search. OK, if we as Colombians or Latin Americans are going to make electronic music, what would that sound like? Our dance music is cumbia, champeta, salsa, merengue, all tropical, Caribbean and folk music. And international dance music is electronic music. So what if these two worlds that come from the dance – this connection with the ritualist – can come together because they have the same root? “

Mejía met Saumet at a party – “a very, very bad party,” Saumet recalls – and then invited her to sing and write during a recording session; their collaboration was forged when she finished a song, “Huepaje”, in 45 minutes. Her untrained voice had the biting tone of traditional Colombian styles, but she had also grown up in hip-hop and could write both rap and melodies; young but assertive, she cuts easily through the electronic constructions of Mejía.

In Bomba Estéreo’s early years, Mejía traveled through Colombia to learn about regional styles. He worked on a documentary on the drums of San Basilio de Palenque, a village founded in the 17th century by runaway African slaves, and set up a recording studio there; he immersed himself in the carnival music of Barranquilla and researched old records of local music. At the same time, the group’s studio expertise quickly expanded.

With each album, Bomba Estéreo’s music has become richer, more daring, more complex and more idealistic. “Deja” is at the same time serious, spiritual, euphoric, rooted and high-tech. “We grew up and we learned more about ourselves, about the music, about the world. So you kind of develop more layers in life, ”Mejía said.

Since the 2010s, Bomba Estéreo has been strongly committed to the environment. With songs like “Siembra” (“Sow”) and “Dejame Respirar” (“Let Me Breathe”), benefit concerts, speeches and a 2020 documentary film, “Sonic Forest”, Bomba Estéreo spoke out against deforestation, mining and pollution. Recording as Monte, Mejía released a solo album in 2020, “Mirla”, which places the sounds of nature at the center of instrumental tracks.

Songs of “Deja” began to emerge as Bomba Estéreo toured Europe in 2019. On the bus, guitarist and co-producer José Castillo and percussionist Efraín (Pacho) Cuadrado began to imagine rhythms and licks of guitar that would end up in new songs. After the tour, Mejía returned to Bogotá, building studio tracks and sending them to Saumet, who was in Canada with her Canadian husband and their children. Saumet brought in a longtime friend, Lido Pimenta, a Colombian songwriter who moved to Canada as a teenager; Pimienta was a singer, songwriter and arranger on “Deja”; Saumet also wrote a solo album with her.

“I’m his filter,” Pimienta said from his studio in Toronto. “Liliana is a fountain of words and songs. She is very free, and I am rather methodical. She always tells me ‘You are my nerd’ and I’m like ‘You are my hippie.’ “

Bomba Estéreo also invited other vocalists for the album: Cuban duo Okan, Mexican songwriter Leonel García and Nigerian singer Afrobeats Yemi Alade. Cuadrado, the group’s percussionist, takes the lead voice on “Tamborero”, a song that recalls Afro-Colombian chants in the middle of electronics, because it celebrates the drums at the heart of the music.

In January 2020, just before the pandemic containment, Bomba Estéreo and guest musicians gathered for three weeks of recording at Saumet on the coast of Santa Marta, with the beach in front and a jungle and mountains behind. The sounds of monkeys, birds and the splash of Caribbean waves, recorded on location, often resurface throughout the album.

“What’s really cool about this album is that we finished it together,” Mejía said. “In general, it’s everyone who posts things on the Internet. But I had always seen Bomba as a community effort, and finishing it together was kind of like having this hippie community, with everyone sharing their energy.

The songs of “Deja” are grouped by elements: water, air, earth and fire. But this framework is open enough to encompass songs offering ecological pleas, happiness on the dance floor, glimpses of mystical revelation and thoughts about loneliness, depression and healing.

“Agua” (“Water”) opens the album with Saument, Pimienta and Okan harmonizing on a traditional sounding song, joined by a Colombian rhythm – a bullerengue – with electronic blips and basslines, and birds recorded in Santa Marta. The lyrics equate a woman’s body with a planet in danger: “Give me water, give me wind and I will survive,” sings Saumet.

“Earth” (“Earth”) uses a six-beat rhythm and plinking marimba patterns, inspired by Afro-Colombian styles of the Pacific coast, to deplore the rapacious exploitation of natural resources. “The rivers have been dried up, the mountains have been left empty for coal,” sings Saumet. “We stand in the middle of the forest, watching its extinction. “

Yet the album also has lighter moments – like the Tinted Afrobeats “Total Connection”, with Saumet and Alade wanting someone to disconnect and become physical – and more introspective. The title song, written with Pimienta, is about trying to live with depression and leave it behind.

“Lido and I both have personal histories with depression,” Saumet said. “When we finished this song, we started to cry together. Now we can hear the song and know that other people may be affected. That’s what music and art are. Something that was really horrible then, or was super strong, can now be something inspiring for other people.

At its best, Bomba Estéreo’s music alludes to what Mejía calls “a kind of indigenous futuristic civilization,” he said, and added, “Obviously we will not go back to living as an indigenous tribe lives. in the Amazon. We already live in cities, and we have computers and phones and everything. But we can find a level of blending our technology and respecting and being with nature. It is like having a bare foot in the roots, while the head looks to the future.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Bomba Estéreo strives to save the planet and soothe the heart
Bomba Estéreo strives to save the planet and soothe the heart
Newsrust - US Top News
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