Se tre anni fa mi avessero chiesto: «Che ne dici di una bella Cumbia?» avrei risposto senza troppi giri di parole praticamente così: «Siete pazzi? La cuuumbiaaaadeche? Machissenefottedellacumbia!»… ecco, nella vita, le cose, i gusti, le prospettive per fortuna cambiano e questo ci permette, a volte, di scoprire la bellezza proprio dove non immaginavamo potesse esistere.
Due anni e mezzo fa una coincidenza fortunata mi ha portato a scoprire i colombiani Bomba Estéreo e da quel momento non ho mai smesso di ascoltarli, ballando scatenata sulle note della Cumbia Sicodelica, cantando a squarciagola con indecenti stonature Fuego ed emozionandomi sulle note di Lo Que Tengo Que Decir o Sintiendo.
L’intervista che segue è a Simón Mejía, bassista e mente del gruppo musicale Bomba Estéreo, che da piccolo voleva fare il pilota e invece oggi: «Now I’m very fucking scared of flying in planes.»
Simón parte da una formazione musicale classica, iniziando prima con lo studio del pianoforte, poi della chitarra, più tardi con la musica elettronica fino ad arrivare al basso. Il suo retaggio ha radici etniche, è affascinato dalle sonorità africane, dalla cultura nativa e per questo oltre a indirizzare la sua musica su un percorso istintivo produce e dirige cortometraggi volti in tal senso, come ad esempio Jende ri Palenge documentario sulla prima comunità, formatasi nel XVII secolo a Palenque, sfuggita alla schiavitù.
L’estate scorsa i Bomba Estéreo sono passati per la prima volta a Roma ospiti a Villa Ada per l’edizione di Roma incontra il mondo 2013, la serata era piuttosto tragica visto il tempo non proprio da luglio romano, ma Simon, sarà per il temperamento solare proprio della sua terra natìa, ricorda così quel giorno: «Rome could be the most beautiful city in the world… The show was amazing as it was in this beautiful spot, Villa Ada, but particularly that Sunday a huge rain fell over Rome so there was very little crowd… those kind of situations, not having too much crowd, turns some knob in the band so we made an incredible show. We had our Colombian friends as it was an event sponsored by the Colombian embassy there. It was beautiful. Then, the next day something really unique happened. We went to hang out with our friend Giorgio Cinini, he is a remarkable hip hop artist and documentary maker, and he had this Colombian musician friends that were in Rome for an event also, so he called them, they are traditional Cumbia musicians, so we started playing Cumbia in the streets like if it was a carnival, drumming, singing, playing the millo flute… and by the end of the night we had a lot of people dancing in a plaza and some neighbor went out shouting he was going to call the police! But everyone was just having a good time to the colombian drums! It was amazing.»
Ciao Simón, you started the Bomba Estéreo project in 2005, with a sort of solo album: Vol1, but before that you were part of a performing artists collective called A.M. 770. What do you recall from that old days?
Really good old times!! Was a very interesting moment for me, and for the development of this sound we’ve achieved with Bomba. We used to organize underground parties with my long time partner Simón Hernández, co founder of Bomba, where we played Cumbias and Tropical music when it wasn’t hype as today. We chose spots in Bogotá where nobody usually went, really dark places in strange areas…we always played with video images behind us, recycled material from T.V. and Colombian film archive… Was really experimental and fun time. I used to make tracks with DJ Fresh who was the man who inspired me for this sound, he´s the man behind all this tropical/electronic/hip hop movement here in Colombia. He used to make mixtapes back in the 2000’s where he scratched samples from old records mixing them with hip hop beats or even romantic tracks from the 70’s Spanish ballad movement, mixed with strong beats…Really Fresh stuff in that time… All of that was the background for the creation of Bomba Estéreo.
You come from Bogotá, Colombia, a country that is experiencing a strong dualism, on one hand has a spectacular vegetation and lush, full of life, on the other hand the territory lives a devastation because of thousands years of civil wars. I imagine that all this has a strong impact on the way you make music, write lyrics and perform. Let’s talk us about your Land, your people and the Caribbean Power.
Colombia is the most contradictory country in the world, I think. A very very rich land in terms of nature and natural resources and at the same time one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Violence and death are part of our DNA, unfortunately, and we’ve managed to live with that, sadly. That makes us very strong people, people that live in a kind of dichotomy between life and death, happiness and sadness, party and work. Everything in Colombia is high contrast, but besides the lack of respect for life, I think, that radical condition is what somehow makes the place interesting and makes you attached to it. Transposing that into music is not so direct specially in our particular case. Is not like we talk in the songs about that, but unconsciously the music, the energy, the contrasts must reveal that in someway. Art is an unconscious process, specially music, it comes from strange flows that one has inside, that when they come out reveal some things but not always concrete things. That’s what makes it what it is, poetic, surreal and interesting. Otherwise we artists would be like newspapers. But definitely the place where ones comes from must affect that unconscious feeling in some way or another.
«Levanta la mano si tù quieres bailar conmigo…», this verse comes from your Bailar con migo song and somehow gives meaning to the way you make music: a mix of Colombian dance music and the rest of the world dance music. How much is important for you to dance and make people move their feet?
Dancing is one of our primary impulses. Is a beautiful expression that’s very close to freedom… you can perceive that when for example you’re in that context and suddenly stop thinking and just let the body flow with the sound: it’s a mystic experience. Is what makes raves, concerts and other modern expressions, the way for liberating ourselves from daily life and duties… In our case, coming from a place that´s very rich in music, and that has one of Latin America’s most influential afro and indigenous community, gives us a direct link to the mother land of dancing and rhythm: Africa. That’s a very nice attachment that we have also in our DNA: our ancestors, indians and africans danced as a mystic expression a way to connect with the divine. Then white people came and danced more focused to party expressions. Now we are like in the middle of both!
The word Bomba has several meanings… It’ could be the bomb, the explosion but also something very cool or having a great time and still it’s a sort of musical rhythm from Latin America where its hidden sense is the perfect balance between the group members. This is what we really perceive watching you performing. So let’s play a game: if you could say one thing, never told before to each member of your group, what would that be?
I’ll tell everyone: «Guys, just don’t take this too seriously…»
In a video interview in 2012 you showed to the anchor man a bunch of vinyl you just bought. They ranged from gipsy music, folk music, funk music and arabian-afro music from the 70’s… Do you have any italian vinyl in your collection? And what do you think about our music?
I’m not so close to Italian music to be honest, in general terms. But specifically we’d managed to build a very nice relationship with Jovanotti, which we deeply admire as artist and person. His band is also amazing, we played with them once in a Festival in San Francisco, Stern Grove, and was great to listen to their music. We managed also to make a collaboration with him last year, Cumbia di chi Cambia, a nice song he had long time ago, that then he proposed us to produce a new version together. You can find it in a compilation album of him’s. Was an extraordinary experience also.
How is a typical journey in Bomba Estéreo life? And how is it when you don’t work?
Working journey is traveling like crazy from one place to the other, sleeping very few hours, making lines for Visas (we Colombians need visa even to go to the bathroom) and making nice shows all around the globe! Not working is working at the studio, for me that’s a very relaxing experience, and spending time with family, going to the countryside, sleeping, taking it easy.
If you had the chance what would you ask to a Genie of the lamp?
Please let me have the chance to rewind my life to clear some mistakes!
In a Bomba Estéreo dream, if you could choose, with which historic band you’d like to perform?
Are you a “dog person” or a “cat person”?
I’m both, but now I’m more focused on dogs as I have one that deserves my whole attention!
L’ultima domanda è per Liliana Saumet, la voce calda, cantilenante e al contempo salda del gruppo. Questa la prima impressione di Simón vedendola cantare su un palco: «I said, this girl has a lot of style, I want her in my band!»
Dear Liliana we know you’re a fanatic of Audrey Hepburn… so did you ever get your Breakfast at Tiffany’s?
jajaja no just in my house but, i wish my diamond <3
Liliana Saumet * voce – Simón Mejía * basso – Kike Egurrola * batteria – Julián Salazar * chitarra