by Raymond R. Beltran
If it’s the vestiges of the voice of Bob Marley and the Rastafarian musical movement, or the influence of Carlos Santana and the electrifying sound of sophisticated Latino rhythms, it had to have been The B-Side Players. The ‘mezcla’ of our ancient, almost forgotten, African influence and the present day Chicano mentality of consciousness lie within the music of these Chula Vista natives.
The B-Side Player’s (‘B’ meaning ‘Brown’) came together in 1994 while some band members were taking African drum classes at Southwestern College. Soon after, they began mixing acid jazz, funk, and their African beat styles together in a studio they shared with the now prominent rock group P.O.D. Today, in 2002, The B-Side Players have taken their music and their voice across the United States. And their message? Cultural consciousness by activating the minds and souls of their fans all over.
“The music is inspired by struggle, any movement, or revolution,” says Karlos Paez, the lead vocalist and trumpet player. “The second influence comes from the Zapatistas, and third influence comes from the Aztec and Mayan cultures.”
With direct influence from political struggles such as the Zapatista guerilla wars in the Lacandon jungles of Chiapas, the music does anything but deny the essence of what real music is all about, dancing. “There’s a lack of consciousness,” says Paez. “Music can help expose the political struggles. The root of pop is African. That’s why it’s so soulful and ‘danceful’ because we’re playing the old beats. We can play reggae and funk and mix it all together.”
The synthesis of this multicultural sound is evident in their first album, Culture of Resistance, in songs such as “Cruzando Frontera” and “Para Mi Nana Maria,” and they voice their message on songs such as “Culture of Resistance” and “Free Mumia.”
Their latest album titled Movement reflects more of a Chicano and indigenous Mexican style sound with songs like “Cocodrilo Jodido” and “Tloque in Nahuaque.” The groups more prominent song, which can be heard at almost any B-Side concert, “Baila” reflects the unity of different cultures through the beauty of morenas, Africanas, and ‘gueritas.’
“I sing in Spanish and I sing in English,” says Paez, “I’m Chicano. People have a problem with that word, but this is Chicano culture. Expressing culture, people will be close-minded to it. We’ve dedicated our energy through the music. That’s our movement, and it’s the most hardcore.”
Giovanni Mejia, the 24-year-old electric guitarist, says that Movement somewhat strayed from the original raw ingredients that the group had in the beginning because of their former producer’s decision, but while B-Side is here in San Diego, Mejia is looking forward to the group’s next project. “[The music] will take a turn for the better, because we’ve matured out of the experience, and we have more control,” he says. “[The last album] was lacking instruments, it had sound affects and scratching. We’re getting back to us deciding what’s the final project. That’s a lesson. Our sound is not mainstream, and that’s the beauty of it.”
It seems that popular mainstream music has always had a less conscious direction and gears more toward money, cars, clothes and women, but in the midst of it all, The B-Side Players maintain their voice. “No one doesn’t like women and money. Ultimately at the end of the day you feel inspired by passion and love,” says Mejia. “I want music to make me cry, dance or laugh, some kind of reaction. We don’t make a grip of money. That’s just the way it is, you just got to accept that, but sincerity of your art is going to bring monetary success. Without money, you can’t eat.”
Currently the group is contemplating the beginning of their musical movement down in Mexican cities such as Tecate and Tijuana, where no one seems to visit for the pure expression of art. “I’m excited about playing south of the border,” says Mejia. “It’s a good opportunity, bringing this flavor of English and Spanish. Mexico has already had a Mana and Stone Temple Pilot’s influence, but they also have mariachi music, bolos, and reggae.”
“Kids are hungry for music, we’re building a relationship with those kids” says Paez reflecting on the Mexico movement. “Kids have a problem with being bilingual. [They think] you’re either Mexican or American. We sing in both languages. We’re not from San Diego or Tijuana.”
Whether they take the music south, continue the touring in the United States, whether they’re from Tijuana or San Diego, they are here and they are good. The B-Side Players will be playing at the Adam’s Avenue Street Fair on Sept 29 or you can look up the group’s website at www.bsideplayers.com.
One last question, Karlos: Where will The B-Side Players be in 5 years? “Latin America, where the music is from. Not saying it’s whack here in San Diego, but we’re taking the music back home. That’s where the band’s going to be in time.”