ACL Fest 2016 interview: Bomba Estéreo finally blows up

Bomba Estereo founder Simón Mejía lead singer Liliana Saumet perform on the opening weekend of the 2016 Austin City Limits Festival at Zilker Park Oct. 1. 10/01/16 Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Bomba Estereo founder Simón Mejía lead singer Liliana Saumet perform on the opening weekend of the 2016 Austin City Limits Festival at Zilker Park Oct. 1. 10/01/16 Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Bomba Estéreo has been an area staple for years, from Pachanga to Fun Fun Fun Fest. But Saturday at Austin City Limits, the Bogota dance crew arrived with an ace in the hole–their very own smash single, “Soy Yo.”

You may have heard the song’s addictive rhythms on the “FIFA ’16” soundtrack, or seen its body-positive music video. The clip is an answer to the bee girl from Blind Melon’s “No Rain”; in it, a young Latina girl bursts with swagger and self-acceptance while she discards would-be haters manifested as snooty and rich white girls.

“We love it. Especially the video because it’s saying a message that the world needs with respect to tolerance, racism, accepting the differences in people,” band founder and architect Simón Mejía tells Austin 360 Saturday at Zilker. Speaking in Spanish, he elaborates: “We’re at a moment in the world where you’re seeing intolerance from colleges among students, to politicians.

“No matter what they say, what’s important is being yourself. Maintain your individuality, respect others, and let any negativity pass.”

Mejía and company (the current iteration of Bomba is rounded out by vocalist Liliana Saumet and Julián Salazar on guitar) have performed in 40 countries. While the band started in 2005 as a platform for cumbia-tinged electronic parties, Mejía says that his traveling has helped sharpen the band as an activism-oriented collective. Here in Texas, a frontline for headlines about immigration and possible presidential border walls, he says he’s mindful of it all when he flies in.

“We need to work toward a global tolerance that isn’t marked by violence but by acceptance,” Mejía says. “Nationality, your color, your sexual orientation–we’re all the same and we’re trying to build a society with more respect and tolerance.

“Us as Latinos should toast to who we are and were we come from and celebrate our culture and how we are, and not let other people discriminate.”

Good news is that Mejía, despite the globe-trotting pop stardom, is still a pretty low-key dude. Here wearing shades and making himself indistinguishable from thousands of ACL attendees, he likes it that way.

 

“Luckily we have a career that lets us go to various parts of the world and maintain a level of privacy that lets us live normally. That level of fame has to be annoying,” he says.

After a year of touring behind last year’s “Amanecer,” the band’s fourth record, Mejía reveals he’s excited to ditch the globalist pop that defined his band’s ascent and get back to basics.

“On the next album I’d like for us to get back to our Colombian roots, sure with a universal aim, but return to a more regional sound reflective of where we’re from,” he says. “And speak to themes we’re interested in and that can make people feel, think, and above all, dance.”


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