Festival Hermoso Ruido Shows Us Why Bogotá Is Latin America’s Next Indie Music Hub

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Festival Hermoso Ruido was the kind of strange and magical weekend one could only dream up in Latin America. Set against Bogotá’s towering mountains of lush green foliage and dreary gray skies, dozens of bands poured into the Colombian capital to perform in one of the Spanish-speaking world’s fastest growing music markets. The three-day festival coincided with the Bogotá Music Market as well as Festival Yaveria, resulting in an action-packed weekend of panels, meetings, and citywide shows.

Proceedings started on Thursday night with Angelika Molina. The Colombian indie folk songstress and her five-piece band kicked off the fantastic Armando Records showcase with gorgeous vocals, jazz and bluegrass inspired arrangements, and studio-quality sound. Major highlights of the night included Chilean bird enthusiasts Niño Cohete, who brought their indie rock A-game, and Colombian producer Felipe Gordon who delivered the evening’s most satisfying dance set and visuals. In the battle of the headliners, Porter and Los Pirañas closed out the night back to back. Where Porter might have been the band who drew in the crowd, Los Pirañas were the ones who left it buzzing, with numerous attendees still singing the Colombian psych-cumbia outfit’s praises days later.

Next-door at Casa CD Baby, AJ Dávila was busy delivering the best performance I’ve ever seen him give – and there have been many. With his ragtag band of international punk misfits, which included Dafne Carballo of Descartes a Kant and Zoé guitarist Sergio Acosta, Dávila delivered a show that packed the hits as well as previewed a ton of new music from his forthcoming album. He seemed genuinely thrilled to be kicking it in Colombia, and the audience was equally hyped.

Friday night was a bit bumpier, marred by a few venue mishaps. The Cine Tonalá lineup featured some of the festival’s buzzier acts like Buenas Noches and Kali Mutsa, who performed excellent sets that were unfortunately cut short due to poor scheduling and communication from the venue. Kali Mutsa in particular was forced to drop a total of five songs from her set, including new music with Chilean producer and live collaborator IMAABS. Over at Latora 4 Brazos, the showcase that included Rubio, I Can Chase Dragons, and Zyderal was completely shut down by a raid from local authorities. The venue – a local indie music institution – is one of many casualties of city-led foreclosures in favor of urban development contracts.

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Thanks to quick thinking from festival organizers, the artists from Friday’s canceled show were able to make up gigs on Saturday. A small showcase at local record store RPM saw Rubio and I Can Chase Dragons play brief but solid sets. I Can Chase Dragons played again later in the evening at El Coq, where the booming soundsystem allowed the brilliant Mexican synth craftsman to truly flourish. Zyderal came on right after and delivered one of the weekend’s most stunning performances. Camilo Zuñiga’s intricately layered production sounded pristine, setting the stage for Delfina Dib’s juggernaut voice to properly soar and fill the space. Colombian producers dominated Saturday night, with Cero39 crushing a set of sliced-and-diced Caribbean sounds over hip-hop beats, and Boom Full Meke’s insane neo-perreo left everyone turnt and frantically looking for after parties.

Possibly the festival’s single most powerful performance came from Ecuador’s Mateo Kingman. Along with his band, Kingman repped hard for his Ecuadorian roots, showing love to his Andean and Amazonian influences by wearing traditional beaded jewelry and a feathered headdress so intricate and beautiful it burned every Lana-Del-Rey-loving Coachella blanquita to a crisp. Kingman wove indigenous chants with environmentally conscious raps and a rhythm section that had the MC convulsing across the stage, leaving the audience in absolute awe.

Bumps in the road and all, Hermoso Ruido organizers deserve serious praise for their excellent curatorial skills as well as their ability to handle unexpected curveballs. Not only did the festival feature incredible talent, organizers were smart to curate bills with like-minded artists. The shows were lively, the venues were well-equipped, and the fans came out to party. There’s a sense of impending stardom in Bogotá, with most local artists bringing in polished sets and killer visuals. Though the struggle to promote and draw crowds still exists, this new generation of musicians is ready to take on the world the moment that door opens. Mark my words: You should not sleep on Colombia; this is ground zero for Latin America’s next big indie music boom.