7256/1247780565-n529945372_1435957_6447.jpgI’ve had a copy of Blow Up (Nacional), the new album by Colombia’s Bomba Estéreo, for just a couple days, so I’ve only listened to it a few times. But that’s been enough to get me to mention it today, on the occasion of the group’s Chicago debut at Rumba (351 W. Hubbard).
Though electronic cumbia from Argentina has been getting a lot of hype thanks to the Zizek Urban Beats Club, the fiercely rhythmic style—which has been adopted all over South and Central America—is of Colombian origin, and I don’t think I’ve heard anyone push it into electronic territory with more vitality than Bomba Estéreo.

The project began in 2005 as a one-man studio effort by producer and guitarist Simon Mejia, but the addition of remarkable singer Liliana Saumet has transformed it into something special. The colorful galloping grooves are spiked with doses of hip-hop, dub, and champeta (the dominant Afro-Colombian style), and Mejia manipulates his guitar to produce an alternating mix of viscous textures and rhythmic reinforcement; Saumet’s vocals hold everything together, preventing Bomba Estéreo from sounding like yet another combo wanly mixing tropical styles with club beats. She has a forceful, full-throated attack; she can rap with rhythmic ingenuity, nonchalantly juggling American hip-hop, reggaeton, and dancehall, but she can also sing passionately, nailing melodies with impressive pitch control and emotional snap.

On a song like “Juana” Saumet seems to be channeling the irrepressible spirit of Afro-Colombian great Toto Lá Momposina, but just a few beats later she sounds like a more lithe Ivy Queen. Saumet seems poised to be a star, and Bomba Estéreo is certainly an effective vehicle for her talents—I just don’t know how much longer it can contain her.

Today’s playlist:
Booker Ervin Sextet, Heavy!!! (Prestige)
Marcos Valle, Braziliance! (Warner Bros., Japan)
Uri Gurvich, The Storyteller (Tzadik)
Steely Dan, Can’t Buy a Thrill (MCA)
Micachu, Jewellery (Rough Trade)