Drum and bass
|Labels||Deep South, Palm Pictures|
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Ernesto "Teto" Ocampo
"El Chongo" (aka Juan Carlos Puello)
Sidestepper is a Colombian band formed in 1996 by English DJ/producer Richard Blair (born 17 June 1965, London) and Colombian singer-songwriter and producer Iván Benavides. The group is one of the originators of the Colombian "electro cumbia" sound, influenced both by Afro-Colombian popular music styles like salsa and cumbia as well as electronic dance music such as dub and drum and bass. Sidestepper has featured a number of guest vocalists and musicians over the years who have since become well-known artists in their own right in Colombia, such as drummer Kike Egurrola (now with Bomba Estéreo), Gloria "Goyo" Martínez of ChocQuibTown, and Humberto Pernett. Since 2009 the line-up has comprised vocalists Janio Coronado, Edgardo Garcés and Érika Muñoz, guitarist Teto Ocampo, drummer Pedro Ojeda, percussionist El Chongo, and Blair on bass/keyboards/programming.
The origins of the band can be traced back to 1992 when 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 for three years, 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.
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. 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'n'bass and dub reggae. Blair told the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo in 1998 that during his Colombian musical education he had found that the 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 the current drum'n'bass scene, and which in his opinion was lacking in the modern commercial salsa productions. Sidestepper's first album, Southern Star, 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 to produce three more albums, More Grip (2000), 3AM (In Beats We Trust) (2003) and Continental (2006).
Benavides stopped writing for the group in 2007 when 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. In an interview with El Tiempo 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, and that the likes of Benavides, Pernett and Martínez were simply part of a fluid collective that changed over time. 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 was released in Colombia in 2011, preceded by a new single, "Justicia".
Having been without a record contract since 2008, the current version of the band has been making a new album in between the individual members working on other musical projects, and raising money for the album's recording through the Pledge Music website. The new record is scheduled to be completed and released in 2013.
- Southern Star (Deep South, 1997)
- More Grip (Palm Pictures, 2000)
- 3AM (In Beats We Trust) (Palm Pictures, 2003)
- Continental (Palm Pictures, 2006)
- The Buena Vibra Sound System (mix album) (Palm Pictures, 2008)
- "Maine"/"Terraplane" (Deep South, 1997)
- "Logozo" (Apartment 22, 1999)
- "Hoy Tenemos" (Palm Pictures, 2000)
- "Linda Manigua" (Palm Pictures, 2001)
- "Mas Papaya" (Palm Pictures, 2003)
- "Paloma" (Palm Pictures, 2006)
- 15: The Best of 1996–2011 (Polen Records, 2011)
- Brown Gamboa, Miguel (June 8, 2006). "Sidestepper, más colombiano". El Tiempo (in Spanish) (Bogotá, Colombia). Retrieved November 20, 2012.
- "Afro-Colombian Beats Forged in Steel: Sidestepper Releases 'The Buena Vibra Sound System'". Sounds and Colours. April 19, 2010. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
- Arias, Eduardo (April 3, 1998). "Salsa con estilo inglés". El Tiempo (in Spanish) (Bogotá, Colombia). Retrieved November 20, 2012.
- (Spanish) Biography of Iván Benavides as artistic producer of the 2010 "Gran Concierto Nacional", Colombian Ministry of Culture website
- "Vuelva la buena vibra de Sidestepper". El Tiempo (in Spanish) (Bogotá, Colombia). March 28, 2008. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
- Sidestepper album page on Pledge Music