Manuel Franco

David Colorado, the leader of the Colombian band Alibombo Percusion, drives around his hometown of Medellin in a three-wheeled auto rickshaw, traveling from gig to gig carrying his homemade instruments — some of them made from bicycle rims, buckets and jars.

The recycled instruments create the unique sound of Alibombo, an experimental percussion band which is making its U.S. debut this week. Colorado, who is also known as Candelo, formed the group in 2009, teaming up with three other percussionists — Lucas Jaramillo, Feliciano Blandon and Alexander to create an enticing melange of rhythms mixing currulao, drum & bass, house and cumbia.

This image was lost some time after publication.

Photo by Camila Alvarez.

Alibombo is not a big budget Stomp or Blue Man Group spectacle with lights and dancing. Instead, the emphasis is on the music and creating new sounds with new instruments.

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The band’s members designed their own DIY versions of instruments like the PVC marimba and the hand drum, both of which are made with gas pipes. They have also designed custom instruments including a device that amplifies the sound of zippers.

On Thursday, the band plays at Bardot in Miami. They will then travel to New York City to play at Barbes in Brooklyn on Saturday.

I talked to Candelo, who just turned 32 this week, about Alibombo’s creative process and the secret sauce behind homemade instruments.

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Photo by Sara Montoya.

Fusion: How did you get into music?

Candelo: I got into music because of Nirvana. I told my parents I wanted to take drumming lessons. My dad was always a music lover and he had very good musical taste. He used to listen to jazz, tango, classical music. Then I started studying music and I started learning a little bit more about jazz, rock, and funk.

Fusion: And how was Alibombo born?

Candelo: I got into a project in college in which we had to play instruments made with recycled materials. It was really cool because you could play any genre you wanted. An old man who liked tango could be listening to you, and you could play house music and he would like it just because it was an unusual performance. Then I stopped working with this group of people and I started Alibombo.

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Even though I was always exposed to folkloric Colombian rhythms because of my family, I started taking more of an interest after I started studying music. That’s when I started incorporating those rhythms into my compositions.

Photo courtesy of Alibombo.

Fusion: What inspires you?

Candelo: Musical notes inspire us. Our compositions do not focus on love, politics, or anybody’s personal life. We play with rhythm. We play with our ideas inside a structure that we think could be fun for people who are watching us and listening to our music. We love and are influenced by Nirvana, Los Corraleros del Majagual, Miles Davis, Tom Waits, Sonic Youth, Lucho Bermúdez, and The Roots.

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Fusion: How do you describe the sound of Alibombo?

Candelo: Alibombo is an experimental percussion show that uses recycled materials to make instruments, like Stomp or Mayumana . We are not that interested in the juggling spectacle that the majority of these kinds of groups offer. We like to focus more on the melody, the bass, and even the harmonies in between all the dissonances.

Fusion: Tell me about the instruments…

Candelo: We design our own version of the instruments, some of which already existed. For example, we all know that Blue Man Group made the PVC tube marimba famous, but we designed our own version of it. The design process was all based on trial and error. For example, the gas pipes or the bicycle rims sound very low, but a bucket sounds really loud. So how do you even out the volumes? Everything can produce a sound when you hit it, but the question is really about the volume. The other question is how you put all those sounds in a musical context and give them a form,that is fun and pleasing for the audience.

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Fusion: So what are the Alibombo instruments?

Candelo: For our actual set we are using the PVC marimba, a bass box made with electric motors, an imitation of the hand drum made with gas pipes, a lot of buckets, jars, a keyboard made with electrical resistances what are electrical resistances? We also have the jacket, the water bass drum, and the bicycle rims—our signature instruments. I’ve never seen any other band using those instruments. Those are Alibombo instruments. The world is big, but I can tell you at least they’re not in Google [laughs].

Fusion: How did you manage to amplify the sound of, let’s say, the rim?

Candelo: It’s really simple. We amplify it with the same piezoelectric microphone they use to amplify the electroacoustic guitars. You can put that on anything that vibrates and it transmits the vibration. We use that because we don’t have a $400 mic. But I guess it would sound a lot better with something like that [laughs].

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This post is part of La Sopita Series: sounds, beats and clicks from the Colombian underground to the world. My goal with this series is to be a bridge connecting emerging Colombian artists to American audiences. La Sopita, like homemade rich, yet simple soup, will give you an intimate taste of the different indie delicacies being concocted in the underground musical kitchens of my bloody, yet beautiful country of Colombia.

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Check out our previous La Sopita installments featuring MitĂş, Meridian Brothers, Curupira and an interview with the founder of indie record label Polen Records

Find Camila Alvarez on Twitter at @CamiAlvarez7