OJOS DE BRUJO (SPAIN)
Ojos De Brujo bubbled away as a collective that shifted sound and identity for several years before coming out of leftfield to win major European success. On Sunday afternoon at Womad 2003 their dramatic main stage performance meant, for many, they stole the festival while an equally exuberant performance on Jools Holland’s Later TV show helped them to sell out a UK tour. Everywhere they played the Spanish wizards were weaving musical magic and leaving listeners entranced.
Ojos De Brujo came together in the late 1990s as various like-minded performers gathered around the Ramblas in Barcelona and began to make music using flamenco, Catalan rumba and hip-hop as their three musical bases. Never before has Barcelona been considered a stronghold of Spanish music – Madrid and Andalucia are where flamenco lives, Galicia and the Basque region both have strong traditional folk music scenes – yet by the start of the 21st Century Barcelona multi-ethnic neighbourhoods and irreverent approach to music making (lead by Manu Chao, who took up residence in the city in the 90s) had created a musical hothouse that the rest of Europe looked upon in awe. And Ojos De Brujo are the most prominent example of this creative flow.
The band’s eclectic style finds women rapping, palmas (the rhythmic handclapping of flamenco) getting mixed up with hip-hop scratching, flamenco and rock guitar, someone sings in Catalan and Spanish and Calo (the language of Spain’s Gypsies), a Hammond organ lays down a Latin jazz groove, a master of the cajón (flamenco’s wooden crate) keeps the rhythms dancing while Colombian percussionist Beto swings Afro-Latino beats into the groove.
Madness? Indeed, it’s an eclectic mix that boils with flavour and energy and suggests a direction in contemporary European music many others will be investigating over the next decade. Ojos de Brujo translates as “Eyes of the Wizard”. It’s an appropriate name for a band who attempt to create musical magic. And judging by the results on Vengue, the 2003 followup Bari and 2006’s Techari (Calo for "free"), the Catalan collective do possess musical magic.
Ojos de Brujo website
Album Review on bbc.co.uk/music
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