Colombian band Bomba Estéreo uses their star power to save the environment

“We know climate change is real and not accepting that is like going against life itself,” said Bomba Estéreo's Simón Mejía.
Simon Mejia (left) and Li Samuet (right) from Colombian band Bomba Estereo.
Simon Mejia (left) and Li Samuet (right) from Colombian band Bomba Estereo.Gabriel Monroy

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By Nicole Acevedo

The albums and live performances of Grammy-award nominated band Bomba Estéreo stand out for how they merge urban "electro psychedelic tropical" rhythms with elements of nature and Colombian folkloric culture that resembles life in rural communities.

“As Colombians, we have that in our DNA,” Simon Mejía, director, bass player and synthesizer of Bomba Estéro, told NBC News. “The essence of our music, our Colombian pride and our country’s folklore is not connected to the music business, it’s linked to nature.”

Music fans are probably familiar with the group from the recent remix of their 2015 song ‘To My Love.’ The new version, by renowned Puerto Rican music producer Marcos "Tainy" Masís, quickly became a radio sensation and surpassed 400 million streams, making it the biggest commercial hit of their career.

The group is now taking their music a step further to combat climate change and protect their country's environment.

The bandmates from Bogotá, Colombia came together to launch a campaign titled ‘Siembra,’ Spanish for ‘to plant,’ to fight against the deforestation of the Colombian Amazon in collaboration with Colombia's Ministry of the Environment, the National Park department and the Grupo Exito supermarket chain.

Li Saumet and Simon Mejia of Bomba Estereo arrive at the 18th Annual Latin Grammy Awards in Las Vegas on Nov. 16, 2017.Eric Jamison / Invision / AP file

“Colombia is dealing is a dire problem,” Mejía said in Spanish. “So we have to start raising awareness regarding deforestation.”

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With #SiembraConciencia, Spanish for "sow awareness," and a music tour set to take place in Colombia between January and February with the like-minded band Systema Solar, Bomba Estéreo is aiming to get fans engaged in a tree-planting initiative and take action on combating pollution and wildlife protection.

“The interesting thing about these issues is how important it is to talk about them in different ways, so more people can receive the message,” said Mejía. “But a time in which people don’t trust their political leaders, it’s important that artists talk about these things to close the gap.”

The Amazon rainforest, known as "the lungs of the planet,” takes in as much as 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year and releases 20 percent of the planet's oxygen. Part of the biggest, most important forest in the world is in Colombia and connects with the Andes mountain range.

Over 40 soccer fields worth of forest are lost every day, according to Colombian government data, which puts the amount of lost forest at a chilling 398,570 hectares (984,888 acres) since 2016.

In that same year, deforestation in Colombia was up 23 percent, with almost two-thirds occurring in the Amazon — the country’s most biodiverse region.

“What’s happening in the world right now seems very contradictory to me,” said Mejía. “We know climate change is real and not accepting that is like going against life itself.”

Colombia shares its responsibility to protect the Amazon with Brazil, which contains about 60 percent of the rainforest. Scientists in Brazil have been raising concerns over president-elect Jair Bolsonaro’s intentions to roll back policies that protect the forest once he officially becomes president on Jan.1.

“The Amazon rainforest is the world’s gigantic breathing lung,” said Mejía. “It’s very stupid to start stripping away protections when we should be preserving it and working to avoid an extinction.”

Recently deforested land in Caquet? Department, southern Colombia.Luis Barreto / WWF Colombia

Bomba Estéreo's "Siembra" tour is set to start off on Jan. 26 in the city of San José del Guaviare, which is considered the gateway to the Colombian Amazon and is known for its vibrant biodiversity and the country's largest indigenous communities.

Mejía said music festivals can be an important space to unify people for common causes.

"If we had more places like this, where politics and money don’t rule things, these places could potentially be therapeutic spaces where people could come up with new ideas to deal with the issues of the world,” said Mejía.

On their Twitter account, Bomba Estéreo said that by "supporting the Siembra tour, you are supporting the #SiembraConciencia campaign. Part of [the money for] the tickets will be donated to the environmental projects the tour will be supporting."

Throughout their musical career — fans may know their hits like ‘Fuego,’ ‘Fiesta’ and ‘Soy Yo,’ — the group has incorporated nature's sounds and imagery. Their most recent album 'Ayo' opens up with the track titled ‘Siembra,’ just like their newly announced campaign.

Recorded in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains by Colombia's Caribbean coast, the song uses children’s vocals, folkloric percussion and altered-electro sounds to call people to plant seeds in “a place that’s yours, no one else’s.”

But the group stresses that anyone can make a difference — even in an urban setting.

“You don’t have to go live in the jungle, but you can consume less. Any action has an impact, and that’s how you sow awareness,” Mejía said.

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