Words by Chris Moss
The beating heart of Afro-Colombia
Colombia’s African musical traditions are often overlooked both at home and internationally. The electro-cumbia pioneers Sidestepper – a fluid outfit co-founded in 1996 by British DJ/producer Richard Blair, who are based mainly in Bogotá – use their latest album to distil them down to crisp vocal lines, taut guitar fingerwork and the earthy textures of hand drums and traditional shakers, sticks and flutes. Lead singer Erika ‘Eka’ Muñoz sounds increasingly like Totó La Momposina (one of Blair’s biggest inspirations): half shaman, half community leader, initiating call-and-response cycles that whirl loosely around the rhythms.
As with all Real World productions, the accent is on hybrids, with an unashamed populism. ‘Come See Us Play’ is a Mercedes Sosa-style chant with an English-language chorus to tease the listener in; the title-track has a rolling, country-style guitar evocative of road movies and gospel choirs. There’s dub, funk, a trippy sound effect opening one track, a bluesy guitar closing another. But Africa is all over every song, adding edge and an exploratory shape. This is a very cool, well-crafted album of celebration and cultural reclamation.