Melodromatic, explosive – the translation is “stereo bomb,”- Bomba Estereo takes a time old traditional musical form originally designated for courting rituals and turns it on its head. As a project organized by the group’s bassist and producer, Simon Mejia in 2005 soon recruited permanent members to execute the instrumental fusion of Cumbia, electronic, and reggae. They made dynamic addition to the group in vocalist Liliana Saumet, who threw in a flair of hip-hop and an unbelievable stage presence. They adopted several influences from the global music universe, and like the group’s name suggests, an explosion of sound took place.
After a small delay, Bomba Estero took a stage appropriately bathed in red light, and began to play deep, rattling psychedelic effects with vocalist Liliana Saumet sultrily whispering “estero, estero, estero” into the mic. The psychedelic effects intensified and began to trip out more and more as Saumet started to make concentrated, reverberating breaths into the mic before the band started into “Pa Respirar.”
KEXP listeners have recently become infatuated with the Colombian band, especially after their song “Fuego” was featured on Live at KEXP Vol. 6. I still don’t think the audience was ready for the type of performance the foursome would bring to the Music Lounge, and by the time they were done they had everyone in the venue spellbound.
After “Pa Respirar” the psychedelic effects seamlessly flowed into the next song “Cosita Rica”, which saw Saumet utter her first and only English words of the set save for a few post-song “thank-yous” as she repeatedly sang “You make me feel so high.” Bomba Estereo as a band was amazing and far more versatile than anyone could have expected. The guitarist and bassist both spent an equal amount of time on a plethora of different effects boxes, pedals, and God knows what else that produced the spaced-out psychedelic effects that ran through their whole set.
While the band was great, Saumet stole the show; she was absolutely mesmerizing the entire time. Though young and dressed in paisley pants and sparkling purple shoes with red laces, she was a ridiculously confident on stage, and her unrelenting sensual force and energy nearly had my knees quavering. I definitely got goosebumps five or six different times during their set. She rapped, let go reverberating yells, and moved around the stage like she owned it. Also interesting was how she had two mic stands set up for herself. One mic she held in her hand and used for most of her vocals, carrying it around the stage, and she would lean into the other to add an echoing emphasis whenever she wanted to. It goes without saying that it worked.
They continued with “Elegancia Tropical” and “Pa Ti” before finishing off the set with “Raza”, during which Saumet approach the front of the stage and vocally riffed into the mic, swaying and moving and tilting her head back as if she was possessed. The entire audience was deadly quiet and fixated on Saumet as, to finish out the song, she returned to the middle of the stage and bowed herself over, her hair hanging down to the floor as the band closed discreetly brought the song home. A standing ovation ensued, the second so far at the Bumbershoot Music Lounge. The first belonged to Aterciopelados yesterday. There must be something about bands from Colombia.