CRYSTAL BAY, Nev. — Colombia’s Bomba Estéreo has been moving audiences around the world with its unique blend of traditional Colombian and electronic dance music since 2001.
Consisting of Simón Mejía (loops, bass) Liliana Saumet (vocals), Kike Egurrola (drums) and Julian Salazar (guitar, synths), the band is currently on tour in the United States in support of their third album, “Elegancia Tropical,” released in November. Bomba Estéreo plays Crystal Bay Casino’s Crown Room on Saturday. Mejía took some time to catch up with Lake Tahoe Action via email.
Q: Tell us about your new album “Elegancia Tropical.” How does it compare to your previous album, “Blow Up”?
A: “Elegancia Tropical” is Bomba’s third album. It shows a slight change in direction in terms of our music in the sense that it is more experimental, more electronic and more eclectic but always maintaining Bomba’s essence, which is working with traditional folk rhythms. It also shows a slight change in the subject of the songs. Almost the entire album was made while being on tour, with heavy schedules and being away from home, etc. That situation made us think that if one is not strong in the inside, the outside world can take over you. The songs are more spiritual in that order of ideas.
Q: On the new album, how did you balance traditional Colombian music with electronica? What were the particular instruments and electronic elements that you used? How were the songs created and developed?
A: Well there were various stages, one more acoustic than the other. For the first one, we used just guitar and vocals, kind of a traditional way of making songs, playing a riff with the guitar and developing vocals and the song over that riff. The other stage was completely electronic, just programming and sampling with the computer. This one was made mostly during a huge U.S. tour that we did in a van in 2010. So you kind of feel the two stages in the album with songs like “El Alma” or “Sintiendo” that are more acoustic over “Rocas” or “Mozo” which are completely electronic. Something interesting to mention is that we experimented with synthesizers trying to emulate traditional flutes in the case of “Pájaros” and “Bosque” and with electronic beats emulating traditional percussion in the case of “Mozo” or “Sintiendo,” for example. The album is an effort to transform Afro-Colombian music into an electronic language. Our process generally starts with the music: a beat, guitar line or synthesizer which we then develop into a song.
Q: What’s it been like touring internationally lately?
A: It’s always amazing to see how different people from different places react to our music. It never ceases to amaze us. I think all dance music has this universal element to it which connects people around the world besides the language. It’s like the hip language, everyone knows it, whether they are good dancers or not!
Q: What are your goals or strategies for putting on a good live show? What tells you that you’ve had an excellent performance?
A: I think it’s a very relative subject because it depends entirely on the energy, which is a thing you can’t control. The one thing you can do among the musicians is to keep a good connection on stage. Music is a connection of energies that depends a slight percentage on the musician, but the other huge percentage is just magic.
Q: What do you like to do when you’re not touring or recording?
A: I like travelling in Colombia by car. You always find amazing places and people that inspire a lot. It’s a beautiful country, despite all the craziness and violence that we live in.