Bomba Estereo take us on a psychedelic trip through Colombia’s Caribbean coast on their debut album, Blow Up (Nacional Records), a collection of songs that blend cumbia, champeta, bullerengue and other folkloric rhythms with electronica, reggae and hip-hop. Vocalist Liliana “Li” Saumet’s strong, fiery voice is reminiscent of traditional Afro-Colombian roots singers like Toto La Momposina. And though Saumet, who is originally from Santa Marta, doesn’t wear the colorful polleras of her predecessors, she and bandmate Simon Mejia carry their ancestral sounds up high and into the future.
Standout tracks include “Juana,” about an easy woman letting loose during Barranquilla’s famous carnival; the instrumental “Camino Evitar,” which layers electronic beats over somber indigenous flutes; “AguaSalá,” a slow yearning song about loneliness that says, “Dejame llorar, que ya estoy cansada de bailar, bailar”; and “Palenke,” a spacey, mystical tune that takes us deep into the jungle—listen with eyes closed.
You can open them again to check out the video for the scorching song “Fuego.” It was filmed in Barranquilla and features the sights and people of what is arguably Colombia’s most festive city. Let me know if it makes you get up and dance.