As of last week, I had never heard of Bomba Estéreo, despite the fact that they were busy tearing up stages at Coachella, SXSW, and working the club circuit. The Colombian group consists of five members: Simón Mejía, the founder of the group, works the electronic side of the sound, Liliana Saumet sings the vocals, Diego Cadavid works percussion instruments, Kike Egurrola is on drums and Julian Salazar rocks the guitar. Signed to Nacional Records, the group is currently touring in promotion of their second album Blow Up (originally released as Estella) and their 2011 EP Ponte Bomb.
Their sound is described as “electro-tropical” with roots in traditional Colombia folk music called cumbia. According to Afropop Worldwide:
Cumbia, Colombia’s most famous musical genre is actually a term for a number of musical rhythms including porro and puya, with its essence in African percussion. Its highly flirtatious dance is thought to be derived from the festival of La Virgen de Canderia, held every February in Cartegena. The dance is traditionally a couple’s dance. The men dress in all white with a red handkerchief around their necks, while the women wear long flowing skirts. The women also hold a candle, which follows the men in a romantic pursuit, and often fan the flames by fanning the long skirt.
As recently as the first half of the 20th century, the cumbia was considered a vulgar, lower class (i.e. black coastal) musical form by the Colombian government, who also shunned it for its foreign (especially Cuban) elements. It is ironic that in the decades since, it has gone on to become Colombia’s national sound. This coastal fishing music has gone on to incorporate waves of influences along the way, from mambo-cumbias of the 50s to hip-hop cumbias of today. It has also gone on to become one of the most popular genres in Latin America.