E is for Electronic Music Infiltration

‘E’ in Beaver’s A to Z of Fusion goes to the sounds of electronic music for their like-it-or-not, rapid infiltration of almost every type of music in just about every part of the world since their beginnings at the end of the 19th century.

electronic music

A Shallow History of Infiltration

The history of electronic music is long and involved.  It’s not a story I’m qualified to properly tell, nor do I want to try. The over-simplified, short, sketchy version is this…

The Beatles - Moog SynthesizerFirst came the creation of electronic musical instruments like synthesizers. The Beatles weaved them into their music in the late 1960’s, as did artists before them. Pink Floyd did too, even Herbie Hancock, and countless artists since them.

The development of electronic music technologies continued, including digital audio to rapidly thereafter replace analog.

The creation of music using only electronic means became increasingly common.

Computer software advanced. Access to computers and other technologies became easier for most of the world.

electronic music

Certainly electronic music got its grips on ‘less-developed’ (ie. poorer) parts of the world sooner than the richer ones, but it eventually infiltrated just about everywhere. Seven years ago in Havana you can imagine my dismay when a young man in the technologically un-advanced, insulated Cuban bubble, proudly played me the reggaeton (an electronic-music-Evil) track he’d just finished making on his archaic equipment.

Some consequences of the world’s electronic music infiltration I’m into, some I am most definitely not.


Nowadays it’s rare to find music made in the warm, living analog world. That’s a tragedy of epic proportions. Thankfully some artists still deliver it – most recently D’Angelo with Black Messiah, and regularly by Will Holland (aka Quantic).

Digital music consumption now dominates – another tragedy of epic proportions.

Nowadays and for a long time it’s been open to any man, woman or their dog with a computer to make music on it. It’s great that so much creativity is flowing from people around the world, but the truth is that I have little tolerance for listening to music produced wholly and solely in the electronic domain.

It’s not all doom and gloom though – the infiltration of electronic music has had its benefits too. Today some of my favorite music from around the world is by artists/groups who innovatively utilise and blend the sounds of electronic instruments into their musical mix whilst valuing and maintaining the living, human, conventional sounds.

It is the sounds of those instruments, and the people playing them, that is the living chi of music. They make the music sound and feel alive to me. They physically and emotionally connect me to the music. Without that living element, with purely electronic sounds, the music is a lost cause for my ears.

Infiltration Samples

Check out these sample tracks by a handful of contemporary artists from different countries who mix up the sounds of electronica and the living to produce killer musical results. Remember these are just super-compressed mp3 versions of the songs. Buy the music on vinyl where you can, or at least cd, to hear it in its full, living sound glory.

1. NGAIIRE (Papua New Guinea/Australia)

Lamentations (2013) - Ngaiire

NGAIIRE – Lamentations (2013)

‘Fireflies’ – NGAIIRE – Lamentations


Check out more NGAIIRE music + footage from live shows here.

2. Flying Lotus (USA)

Flying Lotus - You're Dead! (2014)

Flying Lotus – You’re Dead! (2014)

‘Never Catch Me’ – Flying Lotus feat. Kendrick Lamar – You’re Dead! 


Flying Lotus - Until The Quiet Comes (2012)

Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes (2012)

‘See Thru To U’ – Flying Lotus  feat. Erykah Badu – Until The Quiet Comes


Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma (2010)

Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma (2010)

‘German Haircut’ – Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma


Check out more Flying Lotus music here and stay tuned for a rundown of his upcoming live performances in Australia.

3. Will Holland – aka Quantic (UK)

Tropidelico - The Quantic Soul Orchestra - Tropidelico

The Quantic Soul Orchestra – Tropidélico (2007)

‘I Just Fell In Love Again’ – The Quantic Soul Orchestra – Tropidélico


Check out more Quantic tracks + footage of his DJ set at WOMADelaide 2014  here.

4. Myele Manzana (Aotearoa/New Zealand)

Myele Manzanza - One (2012)

Myele Manzanza – One (2013)

‘Elvin’s Brew’ – Myele Manzanza  – One


5. Hiatus Kaiyote (Australia)

Hiatus Kaiyote - Tawk Tomahawk

Hiatus Kaiyote – Tawk Tomahawk (2013)

‘Sphinx Gate’ – Hiatus Kaiyote – Tawk Tomahawk


Hear more Hiatus Kaiyote tracks + videos of live shows here.

6. Sidestepper (UK + Colombia)

(pioneers in live/electro Colombian fusion)

Sidestepper live at WOMADelaide 2011

Sidestepper live at WOMADelaide 2011

Sidestepper - 3AM: In Beats We Trust (2003)

Sidestepper – 3AM: In Beats We Trust (2003)

‘In The Beats We Trust’ – Sidestepper – 3AM: In Beats We Trust


7. Bajofondo (Argentina + Uruguay) 

(pioneers in Latin American live/electro fusion)

Bajofondo - Mar Dulce (2007)

Bajofondo – Mar Dulce (2007)

‘Pa’ Bailar’ – Bajofondo Tango Club – Mar Dulce


Hear more Bajofondo tracks + videos from a live show in Bogota here.

8. Roberto Fonseca (Cuba)

Roberto Fonseca - Yo (2012)

Roberto Fonseca – Yo (2013)

‘Rachel’ – Roberto Fonseca – Yo


Hear more Roberta Fonseca tracks + videos from his live performance at WOMADelaide 2014 here.

9. Electric Wire Hustle (Aotearoa/New Zealand)

Electric Wire Hustle (2010)

Electric Wire Hustle (2010)

‘Burn’ – Electric Wire Hustle


10. Little Dragon (Sweden)

Little Dragon - Ritual Union

Little Dragon – Ritual Union (2012)

‘Please Turn’ – Little Dragon – Ritual Union 


Hear more Little Dragon songs + videos from live shows here.

Little Dragon live at Oxford Art Factory, Sydney


So musical people, what say you about the infilitration of electronic music…like it, or not?

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Colombian Fusion Music History – Lesson 1

How did contemporary Colombian fusion music come to be?

That’s the question I’ve been asking people in the know in Bogota.

My first lesson came from a Colombian Ethnomusicologist, Simon Calle.  He has completed a PHD on this subject and works for the Colombian government in a role designed to support and promote Colombian music artists.

My second lesson came from three members of a talented and unique Colombian fusion music band based in Bogota – Papaya Republik.

Papaya Republik

Papaya Republik

What did I learn?

In a probably over simplified nutshell, the history goes something like this:

  • Once upon a time in Colombia existed only its indigenous peoples in different regions– with their own musical styles and instruments.


  • Later to Colombia, at the start of the 16th century, came the Spanish colonisers – with their own European musical styles and instruments.


  • Soon after that to Colombian coastal regions, came slaves bought from Africa – also with their own musical styles and instruments.

marimba de chonta - www.beaveronthebeats.com

The result is a Colombia with an incredibly diverse mix of peoples, cultures and forms of traditional folk music: Champeta, Cumbia, Vallenato, Porro, Curalao and Bambuco for example – and dozens more.

Those diverse groups of peoples were mostly segregated within their own regions, with little or no exposure to forms of music from other regions. Much of that was because of Colombia’s incredibly diverse geography – including the Amazon Rainforest in the south; a Pacific coastal jungle; and three Andes mountain ranges going up through the country.

So how did all these different musical styles start mixing together?

I’m told it’s actually been a pretty recent evolution – in the past 2 to 3 decades.

Again in a probably oversimplified nutshell, it happened because of different social, political and technological factors:

  • Issues with drugs and internal civil war, bought Colombians from the different regions to Colombia´s capital Bogota (located in the middle of the country) – and to a lesser extent to begin with, to other Colombian cities. People also came from the regions to the city to study or to work.
  • Increased diversity of the people living in Bogota meant that musicians started hearing musical styles from other regions of Colombia never heard before. They liked the styles, and so they started playing them, combining them and reconstructing them.
  • Some Colombians travelled overseas and had exposure to other forms of music there.
  • Improved technology, and access to it, meant that more Colombians were exposed to contemporary international musical styles, and started to incorporate them into their music.

And finally, it seems that once some music artists started combining distinctly different styles of music, other artists were influenced by that and started to do the same.


Sidestepper Live @ WOMADelaide

The band Sidestepper is touted as one of the pioneers, and one of the most influential, but I understand that there were also others that came before. Sidestepper initially fused traditional styles of music with electronic music – and apparently there was a generation before of traditional styles fused with jazz – and before that a generation of traditional styles fused with rock.

There you have the crude and simplified Beaver version of the history of Colombian fusion music and how it came to be today. 

I welcome any comments that correct my version, or add to it!

Stay tuned for Lesson Two – me learning a bit about where the fusion music scene is at now, and how misconceived I was about a few things.

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Richard Blair – Musical Experience of the Week

My musical experiences in Bogota this week were of different types and qualities.

The best one?  Well it wasn’t really fusion music. It wasn’t even a live band.

It was a DJ set by Richard Blair: Producer and Engineer;  Founder of Sidestepper, a very successful Colombian fusion music band; and an artist well recognised and respected both in and outside of Colombia as one of the first pioneers of Colombian fusion music.

Richard Blair - Sidestepper

Richard Blair – Sidestepper

Sidestepper @ WOMADelaide

Sidestepper @ WOMADelaide

Sidestepper I have more to say about later.  There is also much I could tell you about the incredible artists Blair has worked with in his career (including my all time favorite Colombian artist, the divine Toto La Momposina).

Blair´s DJ Set this week was part of a high quality electronic music program called ´Conectados´.

Richard Blair

Richard Blair

Conectados is just one of many musical and other arts projects run by Fundacion Cultural Arca – a non-profit organisation in Bogota, set up to support artists in a variety of ways, and to develop international cultural exchanges. The Foundation runs Conectados in association with Fundación Gilberto Alzate Avendaño, a part of the Colombian Ministry of Culture and Tourism, also dedicated to supporting and promoting indepèndent music and other arts projects in Colombia.

So why was a DJ set the best musical experience of the week?

Richard Blair - DJ Set - Conectados - 2013 - www.beaveronthebeats.com

  • It wasn’t reggeaton, with only touches of pure reggae, being played in a bar which is supposedly a ‘reggae’ bar. More about the sickly reggeaton plague another day.
  • It wasn’t musicians playing on a very dirty, busy, public road called La Septima.
  • It wasn’t bad quality live music like I heard played by one Latin fusion band on Friday night.
  • The crowd wasn’t rude, noisy or disrespectful  like I experienced at Rock al Parque or at countless other gigs in my life.

What is was, is this:

  • high quality musicsuper tasty vintage, vinyl dub and reggae.

Richard Blair DJ Set in Bogota - Beaver on the Beats

  • high quality mixing, sampling and turntabling by Blair.
  • high quality sound in the venue.
  • a beautiful, ambient outdoor patio space in a colonial building filled with a respectful, appreciative audience.

All those things made for a lovely musical and human experience.

The only surreal thing about the Richard Blair gig was sitting down on chairs with the rest of the ‘audience’, to watch a DJ play music. No matter for me though. It was still awesome to listen to, and there is plenty of time for dancing to tasty dub and reggae in Jamaica next week! 🙂

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