Bomba Estéreo is ready for the big time. Nearly 10 years after the Colombian electro-tropical outfit started making noise in the Bogotá club scene (and then popped up on music lists galore), singer Liliana Saumet and multi-instrumentalist Simon Mejía are now veterans of the global festival circuit. So it’s only right that for the band’s fourth album, Amanecer (due June 2), they would take things up a notch — and we’re not just talking bpm.
Indie and self-contained from the get-go, Bomba was recently signed to a major, Sony Music Latin, which paired them up with a new producer, Ricky Reed, of the genre-mashing California group Wallpaper, whose credits also include JasonDerulo‘s “Wiggle” and Pitbull‘s “Fireball.”
The result is an album that is still very much Bomba to the core, but it also makes room for new influences. Recorded between the band’s headquarters in Bogotá and Reed’s home studio in Los Angeles, Amanecer should get them more airplay and even more gigs on the world stage. Take the lead single “Fiesta,” a party anthem dripping with bass and champeta that’s as much of an homage to the carnivals of their homeland as they’ve ever recorded, but it’s also a nod to Kwaito, an African genre of music fusing hip-hop, house, reggae, and traditional African rhythms.
The band’s worldly sound on Amanecer is no coincidence, since in the last few years they ventured to new and exotic places like Mozambique and Swaziland to play in various music festivals, resulting in a sort of musical awakening (hence the album’s title, which translates to exactly that).
“The roots of our music are African, so being able to go there was like the most direct connection we could ever have [to those roots],” Saumet tells Billboard. “People instantly connected to our music and they were dancing as if we were at the Barranquilla carnival.”
Adds Mejía, “The band is known for the fusion of tropical music with other sounds. What we wanted to do now was change the color scheme a bit while keeping the essence of that Bomba Estéreo sound. It’s a more electronic-sounding album, with more sung melodies, and a more global approach.”
Billboard recently caught up with Saumet and Mejía, who walked us through the entire 11-track album.
Saumet: This one has a sung chorus and a few rapped verses. It’s more on the spiritual side. It’s about living and learning and embracing the good as well as the bad experiences. It’s also about being grateful to God for what you have because you never know when it’s all going to tap out. It represents the whole album in a way.
Mejía: I think this is the one with the most pop sensibility, too.
Mejía: One of my favorites. It’s very sexy. You kind of want to hear this one blasting out of your car speakers. We had never done a track like this, with such a slow tempo — 89 bpms (beats-per-minute). But we wanted to leave our comfort zone and do something slow, yet danceable.
Saumet: This one is to get all sweaty in the club. Just grab someone you like and get all down and dirty with it.
Saumet: It’s a love song about a couple that meets on a beach and now they’re in love. It’s got a very breezy, Caribbean vibe to it.
Mejía: It has a great, champeta-style electric guitar that becomes the lead in the song. You almost remember the guitar melody more than anything else, even the lyrics.
Mejía: On this one, we recorded a couple of traditional Colombian instruments live – which is something we like to do on all of our albums. It has a gaita [a folkloric wind instrument of indigenous origin] and a tambor alegre [a percussion instrument of African origin used in cumbia music]. It’s a really fun song and the most Colombian one on the album.
Saumet: The lyrics are about respecting people for who they are and not trying to change them. Sometimes as people we tend to judge others too much. So what if people criticize you? That’s the way you are.
Saumet: This one was inspired by the Barranquilla carnival, which keeps getting bigger every year. The lyrics seem simple and it is about a party, but it’s not just any party. It’s a celebration of a culture. It’s about connecting with your homeland, and I think that’s something that anyone can relate to, in any part of the world. The way I’m singing is very traditional of those kinds of celebrations in that part of Colombia, and then the bass comes in.
Mejía: It’s a schizophrenic track. It’s like you’re in one party, and then all of sudden, you get thrown into this other party. It’s two worlds told through one story. I think it pretty much sums up the album — a fusion of Colombian carnivals and folkloric rhythms like cumbia and champeta with the world of electronic music; beats and bass and synths, which people listen to all over the world, regardless of language.
Mejía: I like that it has a dancehall vibe to it and that same cadence of “Caderas,” which is a really slow tempo. It’s another one of those down-low songs, meant forperreo [grinding in the club].
Saumet: At the same time, the lyrics are really positive. They talk about growth and spreading that good energy that we all carry within us.
“Algo Está Cambiando”
Saumet: This one is like a deep house sound. Right now it’s my favorite one on the album. I’m taking about looking inward to create change. I think that’s something people are doing a lot more of these days.
Mejía: It’s also one of my favorites. While we were in Bogotá with Ricky [Reed], we went to buy a few Tibetan bowls, the kind used for meditation. So you hear that in this track, which is really cool. It was really important for us that Ricky spend some time back home with us to understand who we are and what we’re about.
“Mar (Lo Que Siento)”
Saumet: It’s another love song. There’s a lot of love on this album [laughs] — love for yourself and for others. It’s about that dream we all have. Beyond material things, what we all want is that – to find love and peace and happiness.
“To’ My Love”
Saumet: It’s short for “todo my love” (all my love). It’s the story of one night, of those things that happen in life and you wonder, “why was it so fleeting?” But the universe is perfect and that’s all it was ever meant to be. And you hear me whistling a lot.
Mejía: We were recording in the studio one day and Liliana started whistling out of nowhere. Ricky freaked out and said, “We have to have whistling on the track!” So he had her whistling for like two hours [laughs]. And that’s how we arrived at the famous whistle sound in the song.
Mejía: It’s one of the first songs we recorded. It’s very house-y, very danceable, like when you’re at an open-air music festival and you have your hands up in the air. It has some traditional instruments in there, too — a kalimba and some marimbas. I think it’s the fastest track on the album at 130 bpms.
Saumet: Where I’m from, in Santa Marta, Colombia, the indigenous people of the Sierra Nevada believe that that is the heart of the earth. And I believe it, too. I have indigenous roots, so you hear me singing from the heart on this one. It’s about how we’re all just a little piece of earth, although sometimes we forget it. There’s a purity to this song that I love.
Mejía: It’s beautiful. When I made the music I was inspired by my son, who was just born. And all of the guitar work is mine, so I’m proud of that.
This article was originally published on billboard.com.