Bomba Estéreo's singer Li Saumet at Coachella 2011.
I hadn't heard much about Bomba Estéreo before I made the trek out to Coachella last month, but what I did know is that they were from Bogotá, Colombia, the same city that first launched Aterciopelados, an ever-evolving pop band I've followed for years.
I was inside the gates of Coachella’s expansive grounds by the band's 2:30 set time on that Saturday, so I did wander over to the main stage to catch their set.
And I was rewarded for my effort.
After founder/producer/bassist Simón Mejía and guitarist Julian Salazar messed around with the equipment for a while, the band exploded into the afternoon sun with an energy that didn't let up until they left the stage.
Singer Li Saumet, sporting dark shades and a teal, flowing, Virgen de Guadelupe-embroidered jacket, came out bobbing and weaving while she spit over Kike Egurrola's drums like a miniature Colombian Chuck D. Mejía and Salazar textured each song with old and new sounds, while Egurrola's metronomic beats and Saumet's raspy rhymes had everyone dancing, and a whole lot of kids who didn't speak Spanish raised their fists and sang along to songs like "Fuego" and "Raza."
It was half-party/half-political rally, but everyone was having a completely good time, even if only a fraction of them understood what was being said.
I recently caught up with Mejía while he was trying to hear me over road noise and a particularly loud GPS guide voice in his tour van, and we talked about, among other things, how he likes the fact that their music appeals to all kinds of different audiences.
"It makes me feel really good," he said. "And it always makes me think about how the music itself is the reason that a song will stick in your memories. It's something that breaks through language barriers."
Mejía started the band as a solo project in 2001, using different contributors. But by the time Bomba Estéreo's sophomore record, Estalla (changed to Blow Up in the U.S.), was released, the current lineup was in place.
Mixing traditional Cumbia with electronic beats, Bomba Estéreo have thus far combined their two greatest influences but will never let that limit them.
"We are a Colombian band," Mejía said. "But we always want to push things forward."
Their newest EP, Ponte Bomb, features a slew of remixes and a cover of Technotronic’s 1989 worldwide smash, "Pump up the Jam." The band likes the idea of remixing its songs and will release some of their highly anticipated third album on vinyl.
While Mejía said that Bomba Estéreo will be his "full-time project" for a while, he also admitted that there will "probably" be a time when he will try his hand at the solo thing again. But for now, he remains focused on whatever he and his bandmates are doing that is uniting audiences across the globe.
"The music is all about dance, and that's a very powerful thing," he said. "It connects people, no matter who you are. It connects all people."
Bomba Estéreo will play at the Loft at UCSD on May 25 at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $18.