Bomba Estéreo have made a name for themselves since they catapulted onto the global music scene in 2015 with their album Amanecer and hit single Fiesta featuring Will Smith. Despite being nominated for Grammys, Latin Grammys and Billboard Music Awards multiple times over the years, they have yet to take home a trophy. This year could be her year: Bomba Estéreo is up for four Latin Grammy nominations including Album of the Year for “Deja” and Record of the Year for “Ojitos Lindos”, a collaboration with today’s biggest Latinx star, bad bunny They are also nominated for a Latin Grammy in the category of Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album for “Deja”. They’ve also solidified themselves as a behind-the-scenes force, garnering lead singer Liliana Saumet and multi-instrumentalist Simón Mejía second-time Album of the Year nominations: Saumet as songwriter on Bad Bunny’s “Un Verano Sin Ti,” and Mejía as producer of Fonseca’s Viajante.
It’s obvious that the Colombian band is on the right track with their soul-rocking music and mind-moving rhythms. That’s why Bomba Estéreo is one of my favorite bands, and not just because I like their music. I can feeling your music. This is especially true during their live performances. I went to two Bomba Estéreo concerts and both shows took my soul on a journey. It was way beyond anything I could physically feel; that was deep. My spirit felt free and shone brightly with different colors and lights. And the coolest thing was, I knew that others around me felt it too.
So how can music, especially when performed live, touch us so deeply on an emotional level that we can have profound spiritual experiences both personally and collectively? “At the most basic level, it relates to our understanding within [the] cognitive science of embodied perception,” says Dr Alexander Khalil, a musicoethnologist at the School of Film, Music, and Theater at University College Cork in Ireland. He explains that it has long been believed that signals passed through our senses and into our brain , which then processes the signal.For example, when we see people dancing, the signal is sent through our eyes to our brain, and we acknowledge that it’s happening.
“Now cognitive science has moved away from that, to an understanding that our cognition is embodied, which means we think with our whole body and we feel emotions with our whole body. So you also listen with your body.”
“Now cognitive science has moved away from that and toward the understanding that our cognition is embodied, meaning we think with our whole body and we feel emotion with our whole body,” adds Dr. Added Khalil. “So you also listen with your body.”
This made me think of a magical time when I was on a beach in Puerto Rico with my friend Cindy. I shared the profound impact Bomba’s music had in my life when we heard “Somos Dos” from the album “Amanecer”. Seconds later my friend looks up and a few feet in front of us on that beach in Puerto Rico was none other than Liliana, Bomba’s lead singer! We both sat stunned for a moment before approaching her and explaining the connection. Her husband just smiled and said, “The universe is speaking.”
It most certainly was. The way Bomba’s music speaks to my soul and, thinking with my whole body, I truly believed that on that magical day I had manifested her presence on that beach. “Everything is energy. Everything is vibration,” says Rose Peña, a sound healer from Jersey City, NJ. “Sound is essentially the purest form of intelligence.” Combine that with the ambiance of a bomba show which is absolutely down to the spiritual moments I experienced during their live performances. In October, Bomba Estereo centered an altar with prayer candles, crystals and offerings at New York’s Palladium Times Square. All the instruments were covered in flowers and you could smell the faint scent of Palo Santo smoke in the air throughout the venue. These aspects set the mood, but it was the music that started the soul journey. At one point during the show, a friend turned to me and said, “I know what you mean now because I feel it too.”
“When someone makes a very intense sound, it immediately maps to your body and you know exactly how it would feel to make that sound.”
“When someone makes a very intense sound, it immediately maps to your body and you know exactly how it would feel to make that sound,” explains Dr. Khalil on the collective experience. “So you understand something about the inner state of this person without consciously thinking, ‘This person is feeling tense.’ You just feel it.” The same is true when someone is experiencing a spiritual moment, as I have experienced during Bomba’s live performances. “When people are producing sounds that come from a different type of state, like maybe a very meditative state, which can often be a long vocalization or something, you also sense how that feels and you understand it in an embodied way, rather than understanding it with your mind like ‘Oh, this person is having a spiritual experience'” explains Dr. khalil “You actually feel it and it reflects in you because our emotional states are kind of contagious that way.”
The ingredients of Bomba’s secret sauce include the gaita flute, a tambor alegre, an electric guitar, a keyboard and the magical blend of Mejía instrumental artistry and Saumet’s hypnotic vocals. It’s difficult to categorize the eclectic band into one genre; They bring a symphony of sounds including cumbia, reggaeton, electronica, hip-hop, dubstep and more. The musical sancocho that Bomba Estereo serves is palatable to the soul, and the combination of sounds only adds to its sabor.
“Sound has a very powerful effect of altering your state of being without you having to do anything other than listen.”
“Sound has a very powerful effect of changing your state of being without you having to do anything other than listen,” says Peña. “Through your pores, your cells begin to absorb this energy and therefore adapt to the frequency of what you are hearing.”
Like Bomba Estéreo’s music and live performances, Peña aims to raise the vibration of the people who visit her sound baths. “Sound works through your brainwaves and can change the frequency you’re on,” she says. “As the facilitator of sound, everything is intentional. Where do we want to take you? When you went to the concert there was intention behind it when she wore her outfit and she brought the spiritual side into it. There’s an intention behind it, and that’s really where it all starts to get the crowd into that deeper state.”
Peña says that we operate primarily from the beta brainwaves, which is a state of go, go, go. But by bringing your state of being to theta waves, the mind, which has a powerful effect on the body, changes your vibration to a more open, receptive, calmer state of being. “When that happens, your body relaxes, your cells relax, your nervous system relaxes, and as soon as that happens you reconnect with the part of you that isn’t physical,” she says. “When people begin to relax, they release resistance, release blockages and open up.”
So next time you’re at a live performance by your favorite band or just having a party in your kitchen, let go, let the rhythms and sounds take you to new heights and dance like nobody’s looking! It’s healing for the soul.
“You heal on a cellular, spiritual and emotional level,” Peña says. “When you connect to this infinite part of you, the magic happens.”