Colombia’s electro-folkloric dance band, Bomba Estereo, Channel the Elements of Nature in “Deja,” their First Album in 4 Years

Colombian stars Bomba Estereo have announced ‘Deja,’ their long-awaited first album in 4 years. The band has released the album’s first 3 songs to accompany the announcement – “Agua,” “Deja” and “Soledad” — LISTEN HERE

Bomba, whose core members are beatmaster/composer Simon Mejía and vocalist/lyricist Li, have been a major force in the alternative/Caribbeat/dance scene since 2010’s smash hit “Fuego.” Subsequent releases like Latin Grammy nominated ‘Elegancia Tropical‘ (2013), Grammy nominated ‘Amanecer’ (2015), and Grammy nominated ‘Ayo‘ (2017) have put them at the forefront of influential hybrid-beat bands, as well as blowing up dancehalls from New York to Paris to Tokyo.

As 2021 awakens, trying to shrug off the dark cobwebs of a tumultuous year of uncertainty, Bomba Estereo is trying to reassure everyone that it’s going to be okay. In the middle of the pandemic, the Colombian electro-folkloric dance band and a community of collaborators got together in a Caribbean beach house in Santa Marta. Where the Sierra Nevada mountains meet the sea, they let it all go and recorded the album ‘Deja.’

The “Agua” music video was directed by Bomba’s singer Liliana “Li” Saumet and Jhoy Suarez. It was filmed on Colombia’s Caribbean coast near Li’s home. “The video comes from an idea I had about a ritual, entering into a parallel universe in which we find ourselves in a deeper connection with nature, in a more surreal and feminine way,” Li explains. “I wanted to begin the album with this feminine energy, each woman represents a different element in nature. For me, it was also about the place I live, where the mountains meet the sea.” — WATCH HERE


‘Deja’ is divided conceptually into four sections that correspond to the earth’s four elements: Agua, Aire, Tierra, and Fuego. “The album is about the connection and disconnection of human beings—from the planet, from one’s own self,” Li says. “It’s about how we’re disconnected, more connected to electronic devices and virtual things than real things. So we decided to use the four elements, because they’re part of the equilibrium of human beings.” 

FEATURE INTERVIEW

Shirley: In the song “Agua” you say “Déjame sola, no me toques.” In the song “Deja” you proclaim, “Deja de vivir en esta soledad que está en tu mente” And not to mention that you have a song titled “Soledad.” What does soledad mean to you? Is it reflective of quarantine and how all of us have been forced into isolation?

Liliana “Li” Saumet: What I realized with that album is I’m just like a channel. These things don’t happen for me, it’s more like through me. It’s not exactly what I think, what I want or what I want to say. It’s not something egocentric, it’s more like outside of me. In this album I really tried to be connected with my environment, the energy that comes to me, that’s how I write my lyrics. I really worry about the message in the music, more the Latin music. There’s a really crazy message right now. I was thinking, we are going to release this album, and we need to say something important. It’s a weird and important moment in life; everyone is in their houses, people need to hear something maybe good, or something that changes our mind. What I did was connect with all that energy: come to me and say what you need to say. It’s not something about me it’s something that is happening. 

“Agua” is like a praise for nature saying we are really bad and we need to be connected with nature because this is the primary thing. 

“Deja” is more about human being feelings; depression. I feel sad but I can still dance, and I have this or that. Life continues. 

“Soledad” is like a romantic song, it’s kind of sad, but at the same time it is beautiful. It is all the feelings that come to me in that moment. It’s not like specifically it happened to me, it’s all the information and messages that come, and I write. It’s what lives. All of the album is like that; messaged. 

Shirley: How many songs are in the album?

Li: 12

Shirley: Is there a specific reason behind that number?

Li: We actually did like 30. This time we did homework. We actually sat down and said we will take this year to write an album, consciously. We had a lot of time to be in our houses and think about it and take the time to make everything the way that we wanted to do. We did like 30 songs and we needed to choose 12 because of the elements of nature. 

Shirley: You were mentioning before how you want to be intentional about the messages that you promote in your music, you mention it is because you feel there’s a problem with the music that already exists in Latin culture. What would be your take on the music that is mainstream or more socially recognized? Is it that you want to alter or add to what people perceive as Latinx music? Or is it that you really want to really change the conversation? Because I automatically think of reggaeton and the social implications and the sexualized representation of women.

Li: Yeah, totally. Of course, everyone knows reggaeton is a machista and sexist message. This works; I don’t know, for some reason people like that as an expression of Latin music. I think it’s so wrong because new generations are having this message. It’s so raw and it’s around us all the time. 

Music is like a mantra you know, if you say a million times “I’m gonna fuck you, I’m gonna fuck you, I’m gonna fuck you,” you’re gonna fuck someone. If you say something about sex, something about sex is going to happen. If you say “I feel good, I feel good, I feel good,” at some point you feel good. This is music; it’s mantras. You say the mantra many times. When a song has a million views and all the kids and all the teenagers are dancing to it in the parties, at some point that will have an effect in the society. 

This made me feel stuck before. Everyone has their own process. The thing is not a process anymore, it’s more like what do you need to do to be famous, and this is wrong. To be an artist is nothing about being famous or successful, it is about making things that can change someone’s life. This is art. 

This is so profound I love that. I love that because I feel very connected to your music, especially this last project. It is very evident that it is art for art’s sake, and not to please an industry or a machista narrative. This project is very important now because we are all home and disconnected from nature, your music brings nature to us. What other language do you include in the song “Agua?”

Li: We worked with different people in this album and one of the women I worked with is Lido Pimienta, my best friend, we have a really good relationship and I invited her to make the album with me. She came to my house, I live by the beach, and we made the album here. She brought a Cuban group, girls, and they are amazing girls, they are musicians. They have a praise for Iemanjá, it’s about the water so it’s really powerful. 

If I can say something else, the music in this album is also visual because I always think that we never have time to do anything. We are always struggling. This album I had more time and I decided to focus on the visual art. For example the album covers, visuals and music videos. I was thinking, I have so many incredible friends that are artists, super cool artists in different countries. And I said, I want to work with the people. So what I’m doing in this album is work with my friends! There are many incredible artists and performers doing many things; there is art everywhere!. I would say the visual language is super important in this album too. 

In the song “Deja” you say “Deja de decir que no eres más, que no puedes más, que no eres nada” it is clear that you aim to uplift your listeners; why is this important to do as an artist?

Li: It is super important, it is necessary. I don’t actually go too much into the digital world, and yesterday I was watching what is happening. I am super disconnected right now and I am in a  detox, but I am releasing an album so I need to get on sometimes. I was watching what the people were saying, and a lot of people really connected with that song. I think it is because everyone has depression at some point in their life, it is a part of human life. Me and you and everybody, especially during this pandemic. This song is about that. 

This is the first song Lido and I made together, because we have our experience with depression. When we finished the song, we both started to cry. We hugged each other and cried and cried and cried. Healing all those feelings. I think when you do that, and you feel that, and you put that in your art, it’s real and the people can feel it. 

The song is to say, don’t do that, don’t feel like shit because you are amazing. Maybe you think, because it is your mind, but it is not taboo to speak about depression; a lot of people have depression, it’s not a crazy thing it’s a normal thing everyone is feeling right now and we need to talk about it. We can dance and cry and be happy and be sad because it is normal.

Shirley: When did you begin the music production process? Especially since it is thirty songs, I can imagine you have been working on this for a while. 

Li: Simon made a lot of tracks that he sent to me. I travelled to Toronto with Lido and I tried to feel the mood of the album. At first I took 15-20 songs, and we started more than a year ago. We started with Lido in Toronto and then I told Simon, we need to go to the beach and be in the same space creating these new messages. More than one year. 

Eduardo: I wanted to develop a little bit on what you said earlier, I feel like it was really beautiful how you express and manifest good feelings onto people through music, through mantras, feel good messages and all that, rather than the machismo or sexismo you may find in reggaeton. Because there’s way more to latinx culture than reggaeton, and I feel like people often neglect that. For example last week, we were listening to your three last songs that are the beginning of your latest project, and we were talking about them, and the first sensation that came to our minds was that this was music to evoke nature. 

Shirley: The music for me felt like I was on a beach in Puerto Rico, or like I was in a rainforest surrounded by plants, and it is very powerful how music can sort of teleport you somewhere.

Eduardo: It is evident that you look to the earth’s four elements for inspiration, but part from nature, what artists or things inspire your diverse sonic palette?

Li: For me in this album, the most important thing is showing to the people how we are disconnected. It’s about how we’re badly disconnected. And it’s simple, I think people need to look more inside. With everything that’s going on now, everyone automatically just goes through their cellphones all the time. And we don’t see the flowers, we don’t see nature, we don’t see the most important thing, we don’t see us. We just constantly look at what other people are doing. I think artists have a really wrong message now on what it means to be an artist, because we have a big responsibility, and it’s unique. Artists and people in general need to check out what is happening inside and the responsibility of our message, so in this album I was inspired by that opportunity to tell people how disconnected we are. And it is simple, like putting your feet in the ground or touching a tree. 

As humans we always separate things, like, if you like nature, you’re a hippie, and it’s like, come on, even the hipsters are dancing reggaeton now. Loving nature is not hippie, we need to love nature and we need to respect it. You don’t need to grow flowers everyday or crop your own food, but rather more simple things that are important. Being part of that rather than more simple things in the material world is so important, and that’s why I mean when I say people are so disconnected. All this album speaks about that, how we are disconnected with our friends, the environment, and how there are things that can make you feel grounded, almost like a new power. All the things that make us be empoderadx, transmitting a right message about what it means to be connected and disconnected.

Eduardo: When I listened to your music for the first time I automatically got this really Colombian vibe without even knowing your group was from Bogotá, and I’m really curious as to what you think makes music sound Colombian?

Li: First of all, I’m not from Bogotá, I’m from Santa Marta in the Caribbean coast, and I’m a really Caribbean girl, super tropical. If someone’s tropical, that’s me. I wear papaya earrings everyday, I wore pineapples before pineapples were trendy. Fifteen years ago everybody called me crazy, because I would wear a rainbow dress in Bogotá going to the university at 7AM, when everything is cold. So yeah, I am like that, I’m so Colombiana, I’m so tropical, and I’m so me. 

Even before I became a singer, I was that tropical girl, and my music reflects that. It’s a lot of cumbia where I come from, by cantaoras. Of course I have a lot of information from people like Joe Arroyo and Massive Attack, La Niña Emilia, Daft Punk, Radiohead. All these artists were in my head and I mixed everything. I mixed electronic music that I always really liked, and cumbia, and these are the roots on my songs. Costeños, and Colombians in general but predominantly costeños, have a really strong folk culture, more than Medellín or Bogotá. Growing up here, the capital would put out the root music, and that root music was always a big part of my childhood.

I take all these different sounds in my mind, so although I never strived to be a singer, these came to my mind altogether and came out like this. I take a lot from my country, from my music and my culture.

I never say: “Oh I want to make this type of music,” I just want to make music that I like, and I know a lot of people like Latinxs in the world, but there is a lot of anglo-music, and I love anglo music and I also I love electronic music. I know it’s difficult to dance salsa, and I know it’s difficult to dance merengue, so for me it was interesting to make music that people could dance easily, even if you don’t understand, you can feel it, and that is how it happens.

I really like electronic music, and I was kind of a crazy girl in the moment for my culture, because here the roots are really strong, and everyone listens to vallenato, but at the time I was listening a lot to Björk, and that is what happens when you listen to Björk in Santa Marta.

CREDITS

Interview conducted by Shirley Reynozo and Eduardo Rolle

Creative Director, characters styling, production: Orly Anan @orlyanan

Photo: Andres Navarro @andresnvg

Make Up: Adrián González C @adrianglezc

Styling: Ricardo Arenas @ricardoa_v

Hair: Mariana Palacios, @interdimensionalife
Art team: 

Art Producer: Mariana Rodríguez

Art Assistant: Hugo Figueroa, Ker Chavarria, Jesús Molina

Seamstress: Yolanda Montoya

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