Meet Rombai, the Uruguayan Group Melding Cumbia & Reggaeton

Photo courtesy the artist

Uruguayan act Rombai made waves in the U.S.with their nomination at the Premios Juventud. The cumbia music brainchild of singer-songwriter Fer Vásquez was up for Best New Urban Artist, which ended up going to Dominican singer Amenazzy. Despite not taking home the award, Rombai is thankful for the recognition – a sign of the band’s growing presence.

Rombai formed as a band in 2014 with Vásquez and some of his friends while they were in college. What started out as something that was just for fun eventually gained a following in Uruguay. With things getting serious for Rombai, the lineup in the band shuffled to include only those who truly wanted to be musicians. As the YouTube views and streaming increased with each hit, Rombai became more refined in terms of the members with Vásquez and a few select partners.

The most recent incarnation of Rombai included Vásquez, Colombian singer Valeria Henríquez, and Bolivian singer Megumi Bowles. The trio achieved the biggest hit of their career with last year’s “Me Voy,” which saw their success transcend Uruguay into other parts of Latin America and the U.S. This year Henríquez decided to leave the band, with Vásquez and Bowles carrying on as a duo. They’re continuing to extend Rombai’s reach with the “Me Voy” remix featuring Colombian artist Reykon and Spanish superstar Abraham Mateo.

The morning of the Premios Juventud, Vásquez talked with us about Rombai’s past, their excitement to be invited to the awards, and what’s in store for the future.

How do you feel to be representing Uruguay in the current Latin music scene?

Nothing makes me feel more proud. Uruguay is a country that has a lot of artistic talent and for Rombai to be representing that is very important to me. It gives me great happiness.

Rombai has had a lot of line-up changes in the group. How did you adapt to those changes?

Yes, we have had a lot of changes throughout the years. The band has gone through different chapters. The first chapter was with my friends. The majority of them didn’t know how to play music. Unexpectedly, the band experienced success with our first songs. Then we started to play festivals and important shows without my friends who weren’t musicians. The band was becoming more prominent. Then we had another chapter with an Argentine girl [Emilia Mernes]. We had a romantic relationship that was beautiful but made it a little difficult to work, so we decided to go our own ways. It was better for the both of us. With this third chapter, I feel the band is more mature and calm with clearer objectives. I feel very motivated by what’s to come.

How do you feel to be nominated for Best New Urban Artist at the Premios Juventud?

I feel very happy with the news. I’ve been an admirer of that award show since I was young. I had to watch it on the internet because they didn’t play it in Uruguay. It made me dream of one day being there, and now here we are. I’m so proud of the hard work we’ve done, and the ups and downs it took to get there. Rombai has a big team behind us to make things like this happen.

Rombai’s music is a very unique mixture of cumbia and música urbana. How did you think of that combination?

The truth is the essence of the band is cumbia. We don’t want to lose that essence because that’s what makes us unique and different from the rest. It’s been fun to mix our music with different genres like música urbana, trap, R&B – a bit of everything. The result always turns out great, while still maintaining a bit of our essence.

Who are some of your influences?

In Latin music, we’re influenced by acts like Reik, Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias, and Shakira. In música urbana, we like J Balvin. We’re fascinated by Brazilian music too, with artists like Lucas Lucco.

How was the experience working with Reykon and Abraham Mateo on the “Me Voy” remix?

It was a great experience. Both of them are very talented and great people. Reykon is Colombian, Abraham Mateo is Spanish, and my partner in Rombai, Megumi, is Bolivian, so it was a rich combination of cultures. It’s a song of heartbreak, and everyone was singing from their point of view. The remix is influenced a lot by the different cultures that are present on the song.

Your newest single is “2 Pa 2.” What can you tell me about that song?

“2 Pa 2” falls in line with “Me Voy” as one of the songs from our new chapter. It’s a very fun and modern song. The lyrics break the usual schemes a little with a romance that’s like among four people. It’s really a song to enjoy and dance to in the clubs.

What are your plans for the rest of the year?

We’re getting ready to release a new song called “Ganitas.” We’re going for more fun music. It’s like in the scheme of “Me Voy” and “2 Pa 2.” We have shows in Argentina, Chile, Peru, Paraguay, Ecuador, and Mexico. We also have a promotional tour in Europe. It’s a very motivational year for us.