We had the amazing opportunity to talk to one of the most influential guys in the expansion of the Cumbia genre in the last 2 decades.
Richard Blair, from Sidestepper.
By scrolling down you will be able to listen to the whole interview.
However, we will try to extract few parts of it, so you can have a context of everything we discussed about.
From the beginning of his fascination for Cumbia, and folklore to the sonic evolution of the band.
Also we talked about his influences and how creative perspectives have sent the band into a less electronic approach, as well as the whole process behind funding, recording and producing Sidestepper latest album: “Supernatural Love”.
On the interview, we talked about the beginning of his amazing career.
More than 25 years ago, a British Born producer, Richard Blair, then a studio engineer for Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records label, found himself working on the album La Candela Viva by Totó la Momposina.
Captivated by the mix of Latin and Afro-Caribbean sounds made by Totó and her band, he made the journey to Colombia to visit her and find out more about her music. Originally intending to stay for just a few weeks holiday, Blair ended up staying in Colombia forever, as he immersed himself in the culture and the music of the country, funding his stay by producing and engineering the early albums by artists who would later go on to be some of Colombia’s best known musicians, including Con el Corazon en la Mano by Aterciopelados and La Tierra del Olvido by Carlos Vives.
Returning to the UK in 1996, Blair began DJing under the name Sidestepper, and set about putting together a band of the same name, with the intention of playing live versions of his new songs mixing salsa, Afro-Colombian coastal music such as cumbia, and British dance music such as drum and bass and dub.
Sidestepper’s first album, Logozo, was released on the small UK label Deep South in 1997, before signing to MTM in Colombia and Chris Blackwell’s US-based label Palm Pictures worldwide.
We also talked about More Grip, which was the second album tilting slowly towards the Caribbean sounds of Colombia, while maintaining the Afro-Caribbean roots.
As a sample of that album we can find Linda Manigua which features Andrea Echeverry from Los Aterciopelados who worked previously with Blair.
Blair’s Colombian musical education found that salsa music produced at the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s had a “heavy feeling” to it, which he felt was equivalent to rock bands of the time such as Led Zeppelin and 90s drum’n’bass scene, and which in his opinion was lacking in the modern commercial salsa productions.
While working on La Tierra del Olvido Blair had met the album’s co-producer Iván Benavides, a singer-songwriter who had previously been part of the duo Iván y Lucía, and the two men began writing songs together, which became the most influential Electro Cumbia album of all times.
This album like Celso Pina’s Cumbia sobre el rio marked a before and after in the way Cumbia was approached.
3AM (In beats we trust).
Mas papaya was a game changer.
Aunque me duela la vida, was the link between More Grip, 3 AM and the current scene Colombia was living at the time with Bands like Morphonia, Pernett & The caribbean ravers, Shai, Caballo & The Mothafu Kings, Pielmantra, Bomba Estereo, Mr Gomez en Bombay and many more.
Benavides stopped writing for the group mainly because he moved back to Colombia from New York in order to concentrate on setting up his new project “Toda Via” to promote independent Colombian musicians, and also creative differences with Blair’s vision. Both remain in really good terms, as you can hear in the interview.
Richard Blair dismissed the notion that Benavides had “left” the band, saying that he had never “joined” the group or been part of the live act as a full member, and that the likes of Benavides, Pernett or Andrea Echeverry were simply part of a fluid collective in the creative process.
Some of the same musicians who were working with Vives, and started working with Sidestepper in the early era, pushed the boundaries even further towards organic, less electronic fusion, relying on a full band mindset their released Continental.
In fact, we would like to show how beautiful the act from Sidestepper is done LIVE, and show their performance at the luminato fest.
Some of the musician here are Pedro from Los Piranas/Frente Cumbiero, Teto Ocampo from La Provincia, Bloque, and the usual suspects, Guajiro, Chongo, Erika.
Sidestepper released a mix album, The Buena Vibra Sound System in 2008, consisting of previously unreleased tracks and remixes of old songs. A compilation album titled 15: The Best of 1996–2011 preceded by a new single, “Justicia” with Goyo from acclaimed band ChocQuibTown
We also talked about the way of funding a release being an independent act in 2016.
in fact the band recorded their most recent album in between the individual members working on other musical projects, and raised money for the album’s recording through the Pledge Music website.
The album, Supernatural Love, was released via Real World Records in early 2016.
If you have Spotify you can check the whole album right here
If not, then you can see and support the album directly from RWR here
or copy paste:
Listen to the whole interview right here: