Photo: Maria Jose Govea
Record Store Recs: Simón Mejía Of Bomba Estéreo Takes Us To Colombia
With the unprecedented global disruption of 2020, it's important to support the music community however we can. With our series Record Store Recs, GRAMMY.com checks in with vinyl-loving artists to learn more about their favorite record stores and the gems they've found there.
As the co-founder and producer of the lively electro-tropical outfit Bomba Estéreo, Simón Mejía has been crafting irresistible cumbia-infused beats that have been getting the world dancing for over a decade. Formed in Bogotá, Colombia in 2005 with vocalist Li Saumet, the GRAMMY- and Latin GRAMMY-nominated group made their mark globally with the explosive "Fuego" in 2009 and have been unstoppable ever since.
Now, with the debut of his new solo project, Monte (which means "woods" or "forest" in Spanish), Mejía is exploring an ambient take on the roots of Bomba's upbeat sound and colorful aesthetic—the music of the natural environment of their native Colombia—reimagined electronically. The album, entitled Mirla, is due out Sept. 18 and is led by the pulsating "Jungla" (listen below) and the twinkling, chirping title cut, inspired by the jungle and a bird that sang at his window every morning.
Each of the seven tracks was directly inspired by field recordings he'd collected in Colombia. "I started to discover that Colombian folk music was interrelated with the sounds of nature—when the indigenous guys played the flute they were imitating the birds, and when they played the maracas, they were imitating the crickets or the sound of water," Mejía explains in a press release. "That connection would become the foundation of the album."
For the latest edition of Record Store Recs, Mejía takes us on a journey to some of his hidden vinyl haunts in Bogotá and Cartagena, and introduces us to an amazing Afro-Colombian folk group.
Please pick 3-5 records stores you love.
Cosmos Zapatería in Bogotá, Colombia
Downtown flea market in Bogotá
Mercado de Bazurto in Cartagena, Colombia
RPM Records in Bogotá [offers pickup and shipping within Colombia]
Amoeba [multiple California locations with U.S. shipping]
Cosmos Zapatería | Photo: Simón Mejía
Why do you love these shops? What kind of goodies you've found there?
These are the places where I started digging for records, many years ago, and where I found my most inspiring cumbia, champeta, salsa and classic albums. Many were underground record stores here in Colombia which don't have websites or anything similar. Mostly are in flea or food markets here in Bogotá and Cartagena (on the Caribbean coast).
One of them was actually a shoe shop called Cosmos Zapatería in downtown Bogotá. The records were hidden on the second floor. You had to know the owner to access it. That's what I loved about those places—purely underground. It's the same thing in the Bazurto Market in Cartagena. You had to know the way to access the good joints where they really had the classic albums in good shape. Nowadays both are more popular, and almost all the good classic records are gone.
Canalón de Timbiquí LP | Photo: Simón Mejía
For at least one of your favorite shops, share a recent record or two you bought there and what you love about the record/artist.
RPM Records recently gave me a record for my birthday. This store is a really good place here in Bogotá, not as underground as the others—you can order online! The record [De mar y río] is of a band from the Colombian Pacific coast named Canalón de Timbiquí. It's purely Afro folk music from an area of Colombia which is going to be my next sonic exploration. Anything that comes from that musical universe is very inspiring to me. It's a completely different vibe from cumbia and the music from the Caribbean—much more Afro and mystical. It's really high energy and danceable vibes.
What's an upcoming/recent release you have your eyes on picking up and why?
I think that should be the next Bomba Estéreo album—I can't wait to see the vinyl release so I can keep on growing my personal collection of Bomba on vinyl!
What were the first CD and first vinyl you remember purchasing when you were younger?
I remember it very clearly. I bought two vinyl albums at the same time at a record store near my place—Appetite for Destruction by Guns N' Roses  and [GRAMMY-nominated] Kick by INXS . I was a teenager and only cared about music!