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NICKY BOMBA Don’t Just Stand There Bustamento

Nicky Bomba’s Bustamento
Nicky Bomba’s Bustamento

Nicky Bomba’s Bustamento have released a new album, Intercontinental Journal 7, and will play at Clancy’s Fish Pub Fremantle on Thursday, April 23; the Rosemount Hotel on Friday, April 24, and Clancy’s Fish Pub Dunsborough on Sunday, April 26. NATALIE ROGERS reports.

It’s safe to say that Bustamento founder Nicky Bomba is a man who wears many hats (in fact I’ll wager he is single-handedly responsible for the return of the fedora – no-one wears them better). 

Aside from his many musical endeavours, Bomba is a brother to fellow bandmates Michael and Danielle Caruana (AKA Mama Kin), best mate and business partner to Joe Camilleri, brother-in-law to John Butler, a doting dad and a budding park ranger.

“I told my school’s careers counsellor that I wanted to be a park ranger when I left school,” Bomba says with a smile. “I’d been playing music since I was six years old, every weekend with my family. But it wasn’t until I was about 16 that I got to the point where I had to ask myself, ‘Do I actually want to do this?’ I was really into electronics at that time and I absolutely loved playing soccer, so it was a big decision.”

Could Bomba have been the next Steve Jobs, had he gone down the electronics route? We may never know, but he assures that he made the right choice.

“What to do in the future was constantly on my mind, but one day I thought, ‘No more! I’m going to pursue music’. So I up and left school to head out on tour and finished up Year 11 by correspondence. I wrote my first song on that tour, and my musical journey started there.”

Fast-forward roughly 35 years and the experience of this intrepid traveller can be heard in every note of Bustamento’s new album Intercontinental Journal 7, out now through Transmitter Records – the label Bomba runs with Camilleri.

“There are influences taken from everywhere – New Orleans, Mexico, the Middle East,” Bomba says. “We play elements of Latin, Afro-Cuban and of course there are sounds from the Caribbean. This record was made to celebrate all the different sounds and sights we’d experienced over the last 12 months travelling the world together. There are seven of us in the band now and we wanted to hear a journal of our travels through live music – that’s why we chose that title.”

The eclectic feel of the 11 songs, co-written by the band and co-produced by acclaimed Melbourne producer Robin Mai (John Butler Trio, Augie March, Blue King Brown), showcases Bustamento’s passion for calypso, mento, early reggae and ska music, while cementing their place as one of Australia’s premier touring acts. Indeed, to truly appreciate Bomba’s infectious personality, you have to hear him in action.

“This might sound a bit cosmic, but there are harmonic vibrations that are instilled in music and the harmonics of the universe. When you play music you’re tapping into something else, and sometimes it’s just like, ‘Wow, this is beyond any cognitive or scientific explanation’. I feel like I’m connected to something bigger than myself, and music is the portal for me.

“Music carries vibrations that are beyond language, race and culture, in many ways. I like the idea that I can’t really put my finger on it, because that’s the magic, the beauty and the mystery of it. I can play a chord and it just does something to me.”

Sporadically during our chat, Bomba will play a tune on his ukulele, and even with the crude acoustics of the phone line, it sounds rather special. “The ukulele is a beautiful way to start the day,” he says, before describing his delight at the prospect of bringing Bustamento’s vibrant show to an upcoming Onespace event at Sydney’s Paddington Chapel.

“I’ve never played there before, but when they explained the set-up to me I got a little bit tingly. We thrive in more acoustically ambient situations, so that venue is going to be tailor-made for us. When it’s a bit more intimate like that, it’s a lot more fun. It’s more like a conversation as opposed to just another performance, you know?

“When we feel comfortable, relaxed and natural, a lot of funny things come out. Sometimes I think we joke around too much! Honestly, I love the connection you can have meeting someone for the first time. When you’re finding out about them, they’re finding out about you and the common language is music, it’s a beautiful thing.”

On that note, one wonders if Bomba ever felt regret for not pursuing his other childhood dreams – especially when he explains that he was granted Honorary International Ranger status for his work with the Thin Green Line Foundation.

“I actually live in the bush now too, so I’m my own little park ranger – and my son’s an amazing soccer player, so he inherited those genes and I can live that dream through him! (laughs).”

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