Saturday, April 28, 2012

Ojos De Brujo - Techarí

There I was - an American in Barcelona in the late 1970’s.  I paid for a small habitación off Las Ramblas.  The city was, and is, a dizzyingly strange merger of cultures.  The Romans conquered it and it is said to have been settled by the crew of one of the nine ships of Hercules and Jason and the Argonauts when they shipwrecked in search of the Golden Fleece.   The City has been run by the Christians, overrun by the Visigoths, conquered by the Muslim Moors, and tended by the French.  All that cultural clash has led to an interesting eclecticism in the architecture (just look at the Gaudi Cathedral) and in the City’s population.  Modern influences, Western European and American influences, mix with the old. 

As I walked up Las Ramblas  I was surrounded by birds in bird cages, vendors, artists, musicians, singers, acrobats and dancers, all performing simultaneously, The influences changed as I walked.  It was like the Doppler Effect of ambient sound - changing volume, timbre, tempo, style and pattern every few steps with a merger of two in the space between.  I wondered whether these amazing and seemingly disparate influences I heard - flamenco, pop, jazz, rock, gypsy, middle eastern and classical - could ever be melded together by a band of musicians to capture the feel of a modern Barcelona.

I finally found that band in Ojos De Brujo, which in English means “Eyes Of The Sorcerer.”  The band now has several albums under its belt and is marketed in North America by Six Degree Records located in San Francisco, CA.  My first experience with Ojos De Brujo was their 2006 release entitled Techarí.  It consists of a CD with fourteen tracks (all en español) and a CD-ROM of four videos, photos of the making of the album, lyric translations in 15 languages and a booklet pdf of album illustrations.

Band vocalist Marina “la Canillas” Abad has a fascinating voice that ably handles an incredible variety of musical styles - sometimes within the same song.  Maxwell Wright handles male vocal duties and plays some percussion. Panko (yes, that is his full name) plays keyboards but also scratches like a NYC Club DJ at 1a.m. on a Saturday morning.  Ramon Gimenez and Paco Lomena are flamenco guitar masters.  Javi Martin plays bass.  Xavi Turull pounds on the cajón, tabla, congas and percussion. and Sergio Ramos assists on the cajón and plays drums.

It is incredibly difficult to characterize the sound of Ojos De Brujo.  It is crisp, clean, clear - an amalgam of influences and flamenco-tinged.  It all comes together to form a fascinating and entirely enjoyable aural experience. - much like the band’s hometown of Barcelona.  There are pop, jazz, rock, hip-hop, gypsy, middle eastern and classical influences, yet the music is thoroughly modern. 

Really, though, back in 1978 I did wonder whether such a mixture of cultural musical aesthetics could ever amalgamate and synthesize.  I realized that someday they would when I walked in and sat down at a table in a small steak restaurant/bar near the Barcelona bullring.  Along with the torero clothing, bull horns, capes, hats, swords, picas and other bullfighting memorabilia that covered the walls, was a small television.  The bar patrons’ eyes were transfixed on the TV.  As I looked up I heard, “Mamacita!, Mamacita!” and saw on the screen a small girl running across a field to Melissa Gilbert and Michael Landon.   A man’s voice melodically intoned over the scene.  “La casa de la pradera” - Little House On The Prairie.  Fusion had already started.

- Old School


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