Before she added a couple of letters, Lao Ra’s explosive anthem Bang Boom started life as a song about bamboo. “It’s my war cry,” reports the Colombian, London-based singer-songwriter. “Bamboo might not look powerful, but it’s stronger than steel — it might bend, but it won’t break.”
The other thing about bamboo is that once it has taken root it’s pretty much unstoppable. After signing to Black Butter in 2016, Lao Ra’s summer release Drum Machine hit Spotify’s viral charts and quickly sailed past 4 million streams, and Lao Ra’s already been described by Wonderland as Colombia’s freshest export. Elsewhere her debut EP Jesus Made Me Bad prompted i-D to praise her music as “gloriously unadulterated, uplifting pop”, while DIY have advised readers to “set a date in your diary for when Lao Ra takes over the world”, and further co-signs have cascaded in from The Fader, Nylon and Noisey.
Lao Ra uses the phrase “girl power in the jungle” to explain the multisensory collage that takes in Colombia’s tropical climate and expressive fabric prints as well as imagery of jaguars, sharks and assorted other untameable wild animals, along with carnivalesque beats, vibrant lyrical storytelling and nods to the strong female artists who’ve inspired her journey so far, from Debbie Harry and Madonna to MIA and Gwen Stefani.
If you’ve experienced the passionate energy of one of Lao Ra’s live shows you won’t be remotely surprised to hear that on her first day at school in inner-city Bogota she ate a worm in front of her own class to exert her fearlessness, or that later that year she went on a protest because the school didn’t have a girls’ football team. “When I was little I started peeing like a boy because I was told my brother could and I couldn’t,” she laughs. “Repression isn’t for me. When I’m confronted with a situation I always ask one of two questions: ‘Why?’, or ‘Why not?'”