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Davis, California

Friday, May 24, 2024

Bomba Fried Rice brings Davis community together with their lively shows and diverse group of musicians

Local band fosters an inclusive environment


By GRETA FOEHR — features@theaggie.org 


Bomba Fried Rice is a local 11-person band made up of musicians from all over the world, playing “Latin genres ranging from Salsa, Rock, Reggae, Spoken Word, Cumbia, Mambo, and Ska, merging cultures and styles of music,” according to their website

The group began in 2011 when a large collection of local musicians started gathering to play music every Friday night in a barn on 3rd Street in Downtown Davis. Juan Miranda, the band’s vocalist and Ph.D. recipient in Latin American literatures and cultures, explained that the band started as “Jamming with Latinos” and grew into what it is today. 

In 2013, they made their live debut, performing at the Davis Music Fest as a last-minute replacement for a band that canceled.

“That day, I told everybody, ‘Bring colorful stuff, dress in colors,’” Miranda said. “And the next day we were on the Sunday Enterprise.” 

Ever since then, Bomba Fried Rice has been a staple in the Davis music community and has played live at a variety of venues in and around Davis. The band is made up of musicians from Colombia, Peru, Argentina, France, Spain, Hawaii and more. 

“We are from everywhere, and I like that,” Miranda said. “It’s a mix. We started like that too.” 

Since its formation over a decade ago, the band has grown and changed — with some members remaining staples in the group and others coming and going. 

Ilse Pastor, keyboardist and UC Davis alum with degrees in cognitive neuroscience and professional writing, joined Bomba Fried Rice in 2020. 

“It was crazy how I found them, because I switched careers from neuroscience to being a full-time musician during the pandemic,” Pastor said. “One day I was like, ‘What am I?’ And then I thought, ‘I’m a pianist. I’m going to call myself a pianist.’ That same day, I went to Sophia’s [Thai Kitchen’s] Latin Night, which Miranda goes to.” 

Pastor explained how she met Miranda and became a pianist with Bomba Fried Rice. 

“[Miranda and I] were waiting at the bar, and he’s like, ‘So what are you? A student?’ I was like, ‘No, I’m a pianist.’ And then he said, ‘I need one,’” Pastor said. 

The same person who brought the original members of the band together in 2011 also founded Sophia’s Latin Night. 

Pastor also explained that because their band includes so many instruments and people with a wide variety of backgrounds, everybody in the audience can relate to somebody in the band. 

“With the amount of instruments that there are, there’s something for everybody,” Pastor said. “People also identify, because maybe they’re French, maybe they’re Colombian, maybe they’re Peruvian, maybe they’re from Hawaii or whatever […] Then it’s like they just kind of feel identified.” 

Diego Panasiti, vocalist and current Ed.D. candidate at UC Davis, emphasized that the band’s music is powerful because it resonates with a variety of people.

“It surprises people, because there are different genres of Latin music being played,” Panasiti said. “It can hit you from Peru, it can hit you from Colombia, Argentina. I’ve seen that at concerts where people just come up and [are] like, ‘I needed that, I needed to identify with a piece of your music.’ Different people from different places say that at the same time, which is cool.”

Bomba Fried Rice creates a lively and welcoming environment at all of their shows and appreciates the energy that their listeners bring. Felipe Becerra, percussion player and resident dining director at UC Davis, feels the positive energy created by the audience.

“The crowd’s always there just to have a good time,” Becerra said. “They’re not there to criticize or have an attitude, they’re just there to have a good time. So it doesn’t matter what you’re playing. Most of the time they get into it and then that energizes us. And we’re such an international band, I feel like the crowd is always so international — such a diverse kind of group all the time.” 

In describing the energy created by their live shows, Pastor recalled the band’s Cinco de Mayo show at Ruhstaller Farm in 2023.

“We started playing, and it was raining, and [the crowd] just took out all the umbrellas, and it was like, it doesn’t matter,” Pastor said. “And they all stayed and more [people] even came. It’s like all this heaviness just gets lifted, because people get into the music.” 

Luis Avila, guitar player and former bioinformatics programmer in plant sciences for UC Davis, explained why people love to come to their shows.

“[Our music is] very danceable,” Avila said. “A lot of people come because they dance, right? It’s liberating.” 

The members of Bomba Fried Rice are grateful for what Davis has given them and enjoy playing for the local community.

“It’s like family, you know? Family and friends,” Miranda said. “You always want to play for family and also new faces at the same time. So you have, like, the best of both worlds. People come and they support the band a lot. Then there’s new people and they feed [off of] each other, and we also feed [off of] them.” 

Jason Burns, the band’s bass player who was involved in UC Davis’ Whole Earth Festival in 1993, talked about the welcoming nature of Davis and how Bomba Fried Rice encapsulates that culture. 

“There [have] been times in Sacramento where I’ve tried to explain the community out here and nobody gets it,” Burns said. “It’s this sort of eternal, little, small community where people come and go from all over the world and then come back, and everybody always feels welcome or at home here for whatever reason. So it’s always like this home base, like a hub for so many people from so many places. And we definitely represent that.”

Avila agreed with Burns’ sentiment and added that the music scene in Davis is especially welcoming. 

“There’s a nice community of other bands in Davis, and we all know each other and support each other when we need a musician or something,” Avila said. “There’s also a number of venues that promote local music in Davis. That’s something we appreciate too.”

When the band started, every member proposed two songs for them to play, and they still play some of those original songs today. Now, they also write originals and are working on recording and sharing their music. 

Miranda explained the band’s process of writing their own music, referring specifically to the two singles they have released.

 “Both of the songs were poems that I recite,” Miranda said. “Then [the band] comes [in] and everybody puts their flavor to it. [It’s a] pretty open process.” 

They will be releasing a new single in the next two months and have a goal of recording four more before the end of the year, according to Avila, who is in charge of their recording process. All of the proceeds from their recent live shows have gone toward funding their recording process, and they will continue this practice in order to get their music up on streaming platforms. 

“Come to the shows! That’s how you help us a lot,” Miranda said. 

Bomba Fried Rice is playing at the Whole Earth Festival on May 11 at 8 p.m. on the Cedar Stage. Find more information about their upcoming shows through their website, bombafriedrice.com, or their Instagram, @bombafriedrice. Stream their music on Spotify or Apple Music


Written by: Greta Foehr — features@theaggie.org 


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