Six years ago Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler came across a Bomba Estéreo concert in his hometown Montreal.
“I randomly went during the POP Montreal festival,” recounts the singer in the mini-documentary, streamed below. “...The band just blew me away. It is very rare that I walk into a show and I don't know the band and leave being completely into it.”
Butler never lost sight of the Colombian electro outfit and continued to follow their music. Years later, Arcade Fire invited them to support their continent-spanning “Infinite Content” tour, a surprise for Bomba Estéreo’s core duo, Simón Mejía, and Li Saumet, who were unaware of Butler's admiration for them.
“It was really special,” Mejía tells Clash. “...For a Latin American band that sings in Spanish and makes the music we make, well, we are very different from Arcade Fire.”
The tour was intriguing for that reason: the unlikely combination of the world’s biggest indie rock bands supported by one of South America’s most prominent electro acts. Arcade Fire, from a frosty Canadian city, whose stadium-rock sits on the opposite side of the musical spectrum to Bomba Estéreo from sunny Colombia, whose music is an eclectic mix of Caribbean rhythms and contemporary electronica.
The documentary follows Bomba Estéreo as they open for Arcade Fire on the South American leg of the tour, which came after the initial European and US shows. “South America is our territory, our house, and the Latin American audience is always different,” says Mejía. “But the European shows were also nice. At the beginning the crowd would stare and not move so much, but fifteen minutes after they were dancing. It was new for them because Arcade Fire is a rock band and we aren’t.”
For Mejía, this unexpected tour line-up reflects a positive shift in the world’s perspective on music, “I think there is more crossing and erasing of musical barriers. The separation between genres is blurring and people are getting more into the music itself,” he says. “It doesn’t matter if it’s rock, Latin, Spanish, English... On the tour we were breaking that barrier.”
Although Arcade Fire’s last album received mixed reviews, it saw the ingenious incorporation of new sounds, such as the 70s disco beats on their anthemic 'Everything Now' single. Arcade Fire continue to redefine their style by blending different musical elements and constantly push the boundaries of their indie-rock foundations.
It's curious to consider how they may have been influenced by their South American experience with Bomba Estéreo—will any future Arcade Fire music be shaped by Colombian sounds? “I think probably, yes,” Mejía laughs. “Win is very into Colombian music, and you can hear a little bit of cumbia in the Everything Now album, but maybe not so direct. Probably in their next record, you will hear it more, because on tour with us they entered more the world of Latin folk music and got to know the strong and interesting rhythms from across the continent.”
After each show on the tour, Mejía and Butler would DJ at bars. “In that space, you really appreciate different music because we would each play a bit of everything, and shared music. I would play a Colombian folk track that Win didn't know, and he would also select tracks new to me,” he says. “It was really special, we built up a nice relationship with Arcade Fire, and it was also good for them to have this perspective of the South American continent through us.”
Watch the documentary below...
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Catch Bomba Estéreo on tour in Europe at the following shows:
3 Dublin Tivoli Theater
5 Cologne Die Kantine
6 Berlin Huxleys Neue Welt
7 Gdynia Open’er Festival
9 Zurich Härterei
10 Milan Carroponte
12 Bilbao BBK Live
13 Barcelona Festival Cruilla
14 Latitude Festival
16 London XOYO
19 Madrid Noches del Botánico
21 Paris Lollapalooza Paris
23 Tel Aviv Barby Club
2 Detroit El Club
4 Chicago Lollapalooza
6 Saint Louis Delmar Hall
7 Nashville The Cowan
9 Atlanta The Masquerade
10 Orlando The Plaza Live
11 Miami The Fillmore
Words: Charis McGowan
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