José Castillo, the producer who takes Colombian rhythms abroad with artists like Camila Cabello and Bad Bunny

José Castillo, Colombian producer and guitarist for Bomba Estéreo. Courtesy

How does Colombia sound? It is perhaps a question that not many usually ask themselves, but surely when reading it some sound comes to mind: guitars, accordions, drums or nature, everything will depend on the environment of the person who answers.

For Jose Castilloproducer, composer and guitarist for Bomba Estéreo, Colombia has a particular sound, warm and festive. He is from Barranquilla and with his work he has managed to bring that Colombian son to the whole world in his own way. One of the most recent works in which his sounds stand out is ‘Familia’ by the famous singer Camila Cabello and ‘Ojitos Lindos’ by Bad Bunny ft Bomba Estéreo.

In dialogue with Infobae ColombiaCastillo revealed how he managed to captivate the Cuban team, in addition to his own musical project and an upcoming world tour with Stereo Bomb. According to him, the opportunity was given thanks to the composer and producer Ricky Reed:

“He writes to me and tells me that they were looking for music for Camila Cabello, so I decided to send him the best track… It was two months of absolute silence, she comes back and writes to me and tells me ‘I loved it, we made an incredible song and it will be the first song that Camila is going to sing completely in Spanish’”.

It’s about the songCelia‘, in which for the first time the Cuban artist recognized for hits like ‘Havana’ and ‘Señorita’ has lyrics 100% in Spanish. The guitars and sound are Castillo’s creation, and she notes that the sound is quite tropical and, oddly enough, becomes a combination between Colombia and Cubain which a kind of homage is also paid to Celia Cruz.

“It is very exciting to hear an album by an artist like Camila Cabello, who is a giant of the global pop mainstream, and suddenly hear that Colombian guitar, like champeta. What I am looking for as a producer are meeting points between those apparently different currents, such as mainstream and alternative, or Anglo music and Latin music”, he pointed out.

This is how the Colombian guitars sound on the new album by the international pop artist:

The work was so popular that, some time later, the artist’s team again looked for Castillo to participate as a producer in two more songs. After the first job they came ‘Up To The Teeth (feat. Maria Becerra)‘ Y ‘Quiet‘; the first with a much more futuristic style in which the two artists are shown in a concert from the future and as singers from the planet Mars, while the second with the much more traditional pop sound that we know from Cabello.

While working on the disk, José Castillo remained in total uncertainty in Colombia, amid confinement due to the covid-19 pandemic. When he was called to make the sounds for those two songs, the guitarist and his wife were isolated because they had caught the disease. “It was very bad and my wife was worse, she thought ‘I’m in a lot of pain, I can’t get up, I’d better wait a few days’, but also ‘this is a great opportunity, they expect good results’”, he narrated.

Finally, the desire to work on this project was stronger than the illness and José moved from his room to his studio, located in another room of his house, to experiment the true magic of music.

“I got up and it was very nice to feel that all the energy I put into making it a good job paid off… It is one hundred percent real, music is medicine, at levels that we are not even aware ofI believe a lot in medicine, but the magical component of music is not only for the body but also for the spirit”, he stressed.

About his personal stamp, the Colombian artist points out that, due to his origins, his sounds evoke a lot of the Colombian Caribbean, but without focusing on a genre, but finding common ground between seemingly distant sounds. “When I was going to produce, he asked me questions like, how do you make this alternative song sound more pop? or how do I make a pop song have surprises and new sounds?”, she explained.

But he also stressed that growing up in Colombia is a great contribution to his life as a musician, due to the difference in rhythms throughout the country, which he has traveled thanks to his work.

“Colombian music is very varied and rich. We have the ‘feeling’ of the Caribbean, the Pacific has its sensitivity and in the interior there is a whole variety. Later, with Bomba Estéreo, I have traveled around the world to nurture myself with what moves people, but definitely my identity as a Colombian means that all my work goes through that sound”, he highlighted.

Precisely, the international success of Bomba Estéreo has allowed its particular sound to leave the national territory and reach places as far away as, for example, Norway, where he recalls a particular anecdote about the reaction of the public in that country to the Colombian sound. “I don’t know what Colombian music has, but there is a little flavor and there is something in the rhythm that is very contagious, people connect live. We played a festival and all the bands that played before us were Norwegian pop bands, and when we arrived people danced a style of salsa, they interpreted it like thisbut you could tell they felt all the rhythm”, he recalled.


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José Castillo, the producer who takes Colombian rhythms abroad with artists like Camila Cabello and Bad Bunny

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