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17 mai 2007

The British Invasión

As DJ and co-founder of the band Sidestepper, Richard Blair didn't just embrace Colombian music — he went native

When Peter Gabriel coined the term 'world music,' he never meant for it to be put in a ghetto. It was supposed to be the world's music for the world, without distinctions," explains Richard Blair, the front man for the Colombia-based electronica band Sidestepper. Blair should know. He worked as an engineer at Gabriel's Real World Studios in England during the global music boom of the early Nineties, before running off to make Latin electronic music in South America.

Listen to Blair describe Bogota's steamy underground nightclubs, where his band romps out its vibrant tropitechno, and you can understand why he's never looked back. "If you're not up for joy and laughing and dancing and sweating until six in the morning, you don't go out," Blair reports during a recent phone call from his adopted hometown. "How could you possibly leave when there's an open bottle on the table? How could you be so rude?"

Manners aside, it's physically impractical to slip out of a Sidestepper show. The band's fans pack themselves in so tightly that they seem to move as one giant, pulsating body to the funky rhythms. All, of course, while belting out a chorus of wacky phrases such as "bacalao sala'o!" ("salty codfish").

While decidedly Latin in tone, Sidestepper's sound is rooted in the many cultures Blair mixed during his engineering career. The Brit first stumbled onto the global music scene back in England in 1989, when he got a job recording reggae and "Bhangla" (Indian-Anglo) music at Sinewave Studio in Birmingham.

Before long he was tweaking music from Cambodia and Senegal to Venezuela and Pakistan at Gabriel's Real World Studios in Wiltshire. "It was an extraordinary education, and I suppose the feeling that Gabriel brought to all of this was that it's all music and we're all musicians," Blair says...

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