Bomba Estéreo has given us plenty reason to trust them with the care of our spirits over the course of four full-length records. Mood-boosting dancefloor anthems long since a given, the Colombian outfit has repeatedly gifted listeners with enduring party fuel. With the release of their latest outing, Ayo, that consistency is absolutely noteworthy — but it reveals an even worldlier role for Bomba. Ayo is conceived as a guidebook for living your best life.
“Siembra” opens the album like an awakening, a call for inner peace complete with instructions: Let go of what you can’t control, for one. Follow your calling, but when things aren’t working, adjust — sit in silence and look within. When you feel alone, remember that you really aren’t. You’ve always got yourself.
The creative result of a spiritual ceremony in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a couple hours inland from singer Liliana Saumet’s stomping grounds of Barranquilla on the Cartagena Atlantic coast, the album embeds messages about nature’s prowess in cultivating personal empowerment. In “Siembra,” revitalization is the obvious benefit. Later, in “Flower Power,” built on a relaxed, almost languid reggaeton rhythm, women are likened to the expected, though not in terms of fragility. They possess the the fortitude to bloom in any environment; despite circumstance, withering away in invisibility not an option.
Elsewhere, references to nature are not so up front, but rather ingrained. They’re there — in essence.
“Quimica (Dance With Me)” has the clear makings of a smash on par with Amanacer‘s “Fiesta”— a standout well before Will Smith hopped on — both lyrically and beat-wise: “Ahora aquí, baby dance with me,” Saumet chants. Like so many Bomba Estéreo tracks, pinpointing just one influence among many — cumbia, champeta, reggaeton, Euro electronic, hip-hop — is nearly impossible. Critics might say this blend feels less edgy than previous records, but Bomba’s knack for melding disparate source material remains one of their virtues.
Founder Simón Mejía, the bassist and synth master, along with Saumet, have always promoted a universal quality in their style — that’s not new. But on “Internacionales,” where the mix is an especially idiosyncratic Bomba sound, we get a full-on declaration of intent: “Yo soy un ciudadano del mundo” prompts a demand to dance and feel the unifying power of music.
Love, of course, is another one of those. Tucked between the rest of the more outwardly nature-connected songs, the trio of tracks dedicated to romance feel more tethered to the terrestrial. After all, those feels are instinctual; they’re inherently connected to natural existence. The physical response of “Quimica” is as palpable as the heartbreak of “Duele,” conveyed in part by a piercing flauta de millo, a traditional indigenous flute used in Colombian cubmia. “Amar Asi” relates attraction to actual heat — the intense warmth you feel isn’t unlike the tingling sensation of a body wholly enveloped by the sun.
To close out Ayo with “Vuelve” drives the point home: It revisits “Siembra,” the start, like a natural cycle. Bomba Estéreo encourages us to find power in the natural, to find ourselves in the earth; it’s the root of everything. Nature is a source of emotional and physical regeneration that’s key to good living — and supplies the best energies for a lifetime of perreo.
Bomba Estéreo’s Ayo is out now on Sony Music.