How Bomba Estereo Blew Up and is Keeping it Elegant

"Bomba Estereo were important protagonists in Colombia's musical boom," said Nicolás. "There were others before them but Bomba emerged at the perfect place and time to inspire a generation--not only of musicians--but of journalists, parties, festivals, bars..."

But it's not without its pitfalls. Nicolás acknowledged that Bomba—and other emerging Colombian acts like them (ChocQuibTown, Systema Solar, Frente Cumbiero, Ondatropica, and Monsieur Periné)--have all had to leave and play abroad in order to become more successful at home.

Elegancia Tropical: Where They've Been & Where They're Going

In January 2010, Bomba Estereo retreated to a beach house near the coastal city of Barranquilla to begin work on its third effort. But touring demands halted its progress for a year. The band ultimately decided to work on it on the road, including during their six-week stateside tour in 2011.

"I took advantage of those moments of not-doing-anything in the van to program the whole album and that's how it was completed," said Simón. "We finished the vocals and everything else at the end of 2011."

Bomba's songwriting process begins with Simón, who produces the songs' electronic bases. "Musically, I always try to start with folkloric rhythms," said Simón. "That is, take elements from folkloric musical patterns, try and translate them to beats and place melodies on top of them."

He then shares the results with the other members, who add lyrics (Liliana), guitar and synth parts (Julián, who is 27), and percussion (Kike, who is 36). The band then convenes, assembles the songs, adds them to their live repertoire and then finally records them.

Simon maintained that Bomba didn't go into the studio with a preconceived concept or theme for Elegancia Tropical.

"It's an album that summarizes these years on tour and what it's generated in us musically and as people," said Simón. "Because these have been years where we've been uprooted in one way or another and one searches for a way to strengthen one's self." Li echoed Simon's sentiment.

"I use the lyrics as a diary of what happens to me" she said. "The last four years are in those lyrics." Nicolás sees Elegancia as a transitional album that's experimenting but also offering answers.

"It offers a hypothesis of what Colombian music will sound like in the future," Nicolás mused.

One constant on this new album is Bomba's commitment to remaining independent and DIY. The band opted to the release the album on indie labels rather than sign to a major. Elegancia came out on Polen Records in Colombia and on the imprint Terrícolas Imbéciles, in Mexico. The UK-based Soundway Records will be in charge of the physical U.K. and U.S. releases early next year.

In the meantime, the band is back on the road. After already playing Mexico in October, Bomba Estereo wrapped up the Colombian leg of the Elegancia Tropical tour this past weekend. They continue on to Chile, Uruguay and Argentina. Li says the group looks forward to playing in the States next spring.

Four years after first blowing up with Bomba, Liliana now grasps the responsibility of being an artist. "We have an important message to share," she said close to the end of our interview.

"This is about helping. A lot of people don't realize that and think success is money and fame. In reality that's what confuses. Success, in reality, is the ability to help others. Because that's why you sing, that's why you write, that's why you paint: to save lives. To save others."

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