Blown Away by a Time Bomb: La Bomba de Tiempo
What happens when you get close to 20 talented drummers together for a few hours? Pure awesomeness, in the form of La Bomba de Tiempo. La Bomba occurs every Monday night in the Konex cultural center in downtown Buenos Aires. If I lived here, I think I would be there almost every Monday night. The anticipation began to build as soon as I stepped into my place in line outside of the cultural center. Being a drummer and loving live music, this is the one thing I was most looking forward to coming to Buenos Aires. 70 pesos later and I was inside, enjoying a liter of Quilmes with some fellow tourists who had just gotten in from Stockholm. After an hour of mingling, the first beats of the drums reverberated through the center. The show was about to begin.
La Bomba is very unique in that it is both structured and improvised. The conductor uses a series of hand signals to indicate what each percussionist should do. The style of each song is set but the percussionists are given the room to modify their rhythms and build off one another. As more and more instruments added in, layering to create mounting anticipation felt throughout my body, the conductor motioned a large cut and all sound dropped out except for the two timbale players…And then the beat dropped. Congas, djembes, woodblocks, and all other types of percussive instruments went wild as the conductor jumped up and down, furthering the crowd into a dancing frenzy. I found myself dancing with abandon, lost in the age old trance of the drums, a smile spreading endlessly on my face. I even had a few people proposition me in spanish for a joint because they assumed I must be on drugs. It’s not drugs, I’m high on drums.
Over the course of the night, four conductors took their turn leading a few songs each and they each brought their own style to the stage. Everything from intensely fast merengue to half-time dubstep was played, and it all blew my goddamn mind! My favorite conductor just so happened to look like my boy Mitch from Koh Tao and one of the hand drummers like my boy Gary from Agonda. About halfway through the show, a guitarist and singer joined the fun. She sang a beautiful traditional song that inevitably built up to a huge drum solo during the bridge. I took a few videos throughout the night but unfortunately the sound quality is not the best, and I couldn’t refrain from dancing halfway through the majority of them. (Click the link below for video.)
For the last song of the night, the final conductor brought out his trumpet and heralded each of us with amazing control and articulation. As he played constant trills in a mysterious sounding key, the drums decrescendo to a whisper. Everyone in the crowd got as low as they could, swaying in a squat, ready to explode. As the drums got louder, the crowd grew taller. And taller. And taller. Finally shooting euphorically into the air. I felt I had to keep jumping and dancing just to give an outlet to the built up energy in my body. The final note hit and the crowd immediately started calling for an encore. We didn’t want one more song, we needed one more song. I needed to be swept away in awe one last time and La Bomba obliged my soul’s request.