Known for his or her high-energy mixture of conventional types and fashionable electronics, Colombian group Bomba Estéreo put out no new music this yr — however that didn’t cease their ahead momentum. Quite the alternative, in reality: A remix of “To My Love” by the Puerto Rican reggaeton grasp Tainy, initially launched in 2016, unexpectedly grew to become the most important hit of the band’s profession, due to a quirk of the streaming-verse. And the band toured all over the world, enjoying the most important U.S. venues of their profession up to now. “At the start, it was simply Colombians [at shows in the U.S.],” founding member and multi-instrumentalist Simón Mejía jokes. “Then Colombians with their American boyfriends. Then extra Americans and extra, and now it’s 70-30.”
Rolling Stone spoke with Mejía in regards to the band’s yr earlier than they performed a sold-out present at New York City’s Terminal 5. These are edited excerpts from the dialog.
Terminal 5 would be the largest venue you’ve ever carried out at in New York City. How have you ever labored to develop your excursions through the years?
We’re the form of band that the expansion is gradual. It’s not from one document to the opposite, one tune to the opposite. We’ve had form of hit songs, however they’re not mainstream hit songs. There have been songs which were in style, and songs that meant essential issues right here within the States, like “Soy Yo.” That’s our largest tune right here — it didn’t go to radio, however there was a motion behind the tune. When the  election for president got here, the tune grew to become an anthem for Latinos. Those assist develop the band in a extremely constructive, out of the mainstream method.
And Bomba Estéreo, greater than making data and hit songs, is a band that’s meant to be enjoying onstage, a dwell band. We developed our profession round that idea, going to plenty of festivals, enjoying and enjoying and enjoying. Now you are feeling all these years of doing that.
You’ve capable of carry extra musicians on the street now — how does that enliven your present?
We’re not an enormous band, an enormous crew; we nonetheless journey small. But we’ve two new members within the band which have taken the music to a special degree. They carry new parts that we had within the music however didn’t have dwell, the standard parts — the percussion, the flute. We used these earlier than extra as samples. Now we’ve them for actual, and other people like that.
It comes from a really distinctive place in Colombia, the cumbia custom. For people who find themselves not into that form of music, it’s completely new. And for Colombians which can be residing overseas, it’s a connection again to the land. The benefit of cumbia is it was born in Colombia centuries in the past after which it expanded to all Latin America. I’d say that cumbia is the one music that unites all Latin America. They have cumbia in Mexico, cumbia in Central America, we’ve cumbia in Colombia, there’s cumbia in Peru, in Bolivia, in Argentina. It crosses throughout. And this time of the yr, in December, it’s very emotional.
On your upcoming tour dates, you’re linking your exhibits to environmental advocacy?
The finish of the cycle for this album [Ayo] is a tour in Colombia. It’s known as “Siembra,” like the primary tune on the album. It’s an environmental, non secular sort of tune, a connection-with-the-earth sort of tune. Our tour in February runs parallel with an environmental marketing campaign to create consciousness. We have actually unhealthy issues relating to deforestation within the Amazon. It’s actually unhealthy now, particularly this yr. It’s turn out to be an excessive drawback — not just for Colombia, however for the world.
We try to, by way of the music and the form of present that we’re making in Colombia, create an consciousness round what is going on and push the federal government to take motion. The fucking authorities is doing nothing. Now we’ve this different jerk in Brazil, the brand new president that’s the similar, taking away safety legal guidelines for the Amazon. We are in a vital time.
Especially in Colombia, what occurs is there’s not a lot state presence within the area. So individuals are doing no matter they need with the land, and so they’re tearing down the forest and the whole lot. It’s unhappy.
We’re enjoying in a spot we’ve by no means performed earlier than in Colombia. Colombia is a really centralized nation. If you tour in Colombia, it’s very restricted — three or 4 foremost cities. The south of the nation or different elements that aren’t linked with the middle are forgotten. Those elements is the place the deforestation is going on. The first present of the tour is a symbolic present, a free present within the capital of one of many states the place deforestation is actually, actually unhealthy. First they reduce the timber, then they burn by way of January. So the time we’ll be there’s a sturdy burning time. It’ll be an announcement to be there.
And we’ll discuss with the younger individuals, discuss to the neighborhood. People usually are not conscious what’s the potential for the forest. It’s a supply of information, sustainable improvement. People don’t see that. They solely see it as one thing to be torn down for a coca tree or cattle ranch. We’re making an attempt to share a special imaginative and prescient.
You consider music can nonetheless have a political influence?
Everyday individuals belief politicians much less. You see it — the leaders of the world are a bunch of jerks. They don’t hear. But individuals belief artists. What has occurred is that artists are extra targeted on the leisure enterprise. In the previous, Roger Waters and people form of artists had been telling truths. Now it’s all about social media; it’s extra gentle. As Colombians, we come from a rustic stuffed with battle. We have to discuss it. It’s a mission we’ve. We have to make use of music to attempt to enhance the nation a little bit bit. We should contribute to that.
Pivoting to the “To My Love” remix: What was it wish to have this tune turn out to be a shock hit — the most important document of your profession — this yr, two years after it initially got here out?
The complete story round that tune is loopy. When we made the unique monitor on the Amanecer album, the producer, Ricky Reed, he was at all times saying, this needs to be the one. I used to be saying, I don’t know, it’s a love tune. We tried to skip it. We at all times knew it was a tune that individuals preferred — individuals at all times just like the love songs. We skipped it, and “Soy Yo” changed it as a single. That grew to become large in a powerful method, a political method. So we forgot in regards to the fucking tune. Time handed.
We did the remix album, that was impressed by the Cure album that has all of the tracks remixed [Mixed Up]. Tainy does plenty of reggaeton and entice, he made a remix for the album. We’re like, it’s cool. One or two years handed, after which in Mexico, on Spotify, the tune started to develop and develop. When it was not big however medium[-big], the label was like, there’s one thing occurring! It stored on rising and rising. The smartest thing was that there was no advertising and marketing cash. No video. Then we did a extremely low-cost video at Liliana’s home on the seaside.
You don’t know why it began to choose up in Mexico?
Well first it’s a love tune. And then the remix, in reverse to the unique monitor, had a little bit reggaeton, and reggaeton is big. It was a combination — not an entire reggaeton tune, however a Bomba Estéreo, Caribbean, danceable love tune. In Mexico you heard it within the taxis. You heard it in all places. I like that about music immediately. You don’t want the radio stations and the TV. If somebody likes the tune and begins sharing it on Spotify, it climbs with out the necessity of anybody within the center.
So you’re a fan of streaming?
At the start I used to be like, “I don’t know.” But I used to be studying this David Byrne e book the opposite day, and he was saying this complete digital, streaming factor has given music again its authentic essence. It’s simply one thing that flows. You don’t personal the music. It’s ephemeral. You have entry to plenty of music that’s simply there in a cloud; you don’t have to take the document dwelling. It’s an enormous wave of sounds there.
Do you are concerned that inside the Latin market, the streaming companies are targeted on reggaeton and entice above all else?
Those genres have big numbers. But in case you’re a Spotify person, you’re capable of search no matter you need. What you see first is that music as a result of they’ve big numbers, billions of no matter. But what I like about all of the reggaeton stuff is first, it’s music from the Caribbean. Finally. Reggaeton comes from the Caribbean, as reggae did, as salsa did. It’s the third wave of Caribbean music taking on the world.
And second, it put the Spanish-language music on a world degree. You don’t have that dilemma that you simply had earlier than, the place in case you sing in Spanish you’re not going to be worldwide. Now it’s like, all individuals hearken to Spanish music. But yeah, beneath reggaeton and entice, there’s an enormous universe of Latin music that’s actually fascinating. Independent producers in Ecuador, in Colombia, in Mexico. [Whoever] needs to seek out it, they’ll search. I believe Latin music is at its greatest now.
It looks as if you’ve at all times been taken with selling the variety of Afro-Colombian sounds in your music.
That custom that we’ve in Colombia is similar to the custom right here with the blues. We had an African immigration mixing with an area indigenous inhabitants. In Colombia, that mix made this actually sturdy connection, sturdy music. All the rhythms we’ve in Colombia on each coasts come from that. It’s a powerful grounding for making music, for exploring music. It’s an enormous universe: all Africa, all Colombia, in only one nation. So you’ve countless inspiration, and eventually, it’s authentic, it’s our music. When you make music, particularly on this globalized context, in a world that’s extra homogenized, it’s important to communicate for the place you come from.