On “Tierra,” one of the most arresting moments of Bomba Estereo’s new album Deja, vocalist Li Saumet offers a bleak list of crimes against the planet: “They took away the sea, sky, and wind,” she sings. “They took the wind from us, they burned the jungle, they sold the lands, they put out the sun.” But then she reassures us that they have not taken away our dreams since we can write history from now on. “Tierra” is also a catchy track with an irresistible beat. In other words, the festive electronic folk sound that gained Bomba Estéreo international recognition is present, and through it, they deliver a conflicted and yearning party record. Deja is perhaps one of the most consciously (and best) post-pandemic records of the year.
Deja marks the next stage in the evolution of the Colombian duo of Saumet (vocals/lyrics) and Simón Mejía (electronics). During the last decade, Bomba Estéreo rose to international recognition thanks to an irresistible combination of folk melodies, cumbia rhythms, electronic sounds, and a keen sense of pop hooks, resulting in hits like “Fuego,” “Soy Yo,” and “To My Love.” For their latest studio effort, Saumet and Mejía wrote and recorded with touring guitarist José Castillo and percussionist Efraín “Pacho Carnaval” Cuadrado—a first for Bomba Estéreo—as well as Lido Pimienta and the Cuban duo OKAN on backing vocals at Saumet’s beach house on the Colombian coast. With the pandemic stalling the album, the band seized the opportunity to finish the album, transforming it into a multilayered, emotional artwork.
It’s divided into four sections, each representing an element—water, earth, fire, wind—that maintain humanity’s equilibrium—or lack thereof, bringing the narrative from hopeful to hopeless and back. Songs like “Se Acabó” have Saumet expressing how she’s sick of crying and ready to heal, and how the future will bring the light. Musically speaking, Deja is perhaps Bomba Estéreo’s most fully realized work to date; the production is so lush that you’re as likely to get lost in its textures as much as you’d be prompted to dance. Acoustic guitars give way to deep bass grooves on “Se Acabó” while “Tamborero” features a hook straight from folkloric cumbia with dub- and house-inspired electronics; meanwhile, “Conexión Total” gets its spark from the presence of Nigerian singer Yemi Alade. Even when Bomba Estereo get dark, there are moments like “Ahora” which features field recordings and Saumet’s spoken word-intro as if conducting a guided meditation, giving the listener a chance to breathe.
Deja is at once energetic and subdued, heartbroken as well as full of heart, and a balance between their ancestral heritage with cutting-edge experimentations. With this album, Bomba Estéreo propose dance music as a gateway to a better tomorrow.