El Otro Lado

by Leah Bowden

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El Otro Lado (The Other Side) is a new ensemble featuring musicians who perform and teach on both sides of the USA-Mexico border. This live album contains new interpretations of music written by the members of Max Roach’s historic percussion collective, M’Boom.

Max Roach (1924-2007) was one of the most important drummers in the history of American music. His early contributions to bebop opened up rhythmic and creative possibilities for the drum set, paving the way for many styles of music to come. Always seeking new ideas and fresh sounds, he remained active as a percussionist, composer and bandleader through six decades of cultural and musical change.
In 1960 Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln released We Insist! Freedom Now Suite, foreshadowing a proliferation of jazz albums that would address racial and political issues through the music. We Insist! was immediately hailed by the NAACP as a deeply relevant political work, and it would later be seen as a landmark of the early Civil Rights movement. When DownBeat Magazine interviewed him about it, Roach famously proclaimed that he would never again play music without social significance.
By the end of the decade Roach had begun frequenting Warren Smith’s Studio Wis, a New York loft stocked with hundreds of percussion instruments. There, he developed a vision for exploring the full range of sound offered by percussion instruments. Roach enlisted Smith, Joe Chambers, Omar Clay, Roy Brooks and Freddie Waits to form an ensemble, and he named it M’Boom after a secret order of drummers in Northern Senegal.
The musicians of M’Boom dreamed of using music to build bridges of solidarity across the African Diaspora. They were thinking about the challenges of integration in the United States, Apartheid in South Africa, and decolonization on the African continent. Instead of writing lyrics, the percussionists set out to encode a politics of diversity and radical inclusiveness into the sound itself. Through the integration of elements from world music, classical music and jazz, they developed a unique modernist lens through which they could reimagine the rhythms of the hemisphere. With authorship and performance roles distributed among its members, M’Boom would eventually produce a small library of works. They would also release several studio albums and perform at major cultural centers across the United States and Europe, with hundreds of instruments in tow.
This live album represents a collaborative effort toward new interpretations of these historically resonant works. The members of El Otro Lado recognize the power of music to strengthen human connections. We celebrate diversity and actively resist bigotry and oppression in the border region and beyond. No border. No nation. No deportation.


released December 17, 2017

Recorded live at the University of California, San Diego.
Mixed and Mastered by Wayne Peet at New Zone Studios.
Musical direction by Leah Bowden.


Charlie Chavez
Sean Dowgray
Ruben Hernandez
Shannon O’Brien
Ben Rempel
Philip Bowden
Nico Hueso
Fiona DIgney
Leah Bowden


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