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Ojos de Brujo: the new, vital sound of the Spanish city

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Techarí, the new album by flamenco fusion band Ojos de Brujo, should be celebrated, writes David Karvala
Issue 1994

“Eyes of the Wizard”, Ojos de Brujo in Spanish, are a group of friends who jammed together and turned into a band. They have become known for a sound rooted in flamenco, but mixed with everything – North African rai, rap, Cuban and Indian music.

Techarí, their new CD, continues their evolution, after their previous albums Vengue in 1999 and Barí in 2002.

The guest musicians on Techarí include Faada Freddy, from the brilliant Senegalese rap group Daara J, and Prithpal Rajput of Asian Dub Foundation.

That is on top of the large, floating and multinational membership of the group itself.

Ojos de Brujo are the tip of the iceberg of a whole new music scene that has exploded in the Spanish state over recent years.

When I moved to Barcelona in 1993, it was an almost exclusively white city that seemed to lack the cultural mix of London.

In fact, Barcelona had already lived through one massive process of immigration. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants moved to the city in the 1950s and 1960s, a majority from Andalucía in the south who brought flamenco music with them.

These immigrants created the first flamenco fusion in the 1960s, Rumba Catalana.

This was urban music which mixed in Latin American rhythms to produce something much louder and livelier than traditional flamenco.

But it was Rumba Argelina, the 1993 album by Radio Tarifa, that recovered the Arabic origins of flamenco.

As the group’s founder Faín Sánchez Dueñas said, this was “reclaiming a very ancient Mediterranean tradition”.

In what is now the Spanish state, that tradition includes the Moorish presence, which lasted 700 years in Andalucía. Flamenco, which was born in Andalucía, had North African elements in its DNA.

The artists who started Radio Tarifa weren’t flamenco or rock musicians, but investigators into medieval music. While their sound was refreshingly different, it was more music for the mind than the body.

What is different today are the massive social changes in the Spanish state, above all in the big cities.

Foreigners have gone from around 2 percent of the population of Barcelona 15 years ago to nearly 15 percent today. In the poor central neighbourhood of Raval the figure is nearly 50 percent.

You can see a multicultural reality in the streets of Raval – and similar areas like Lavapies in Madrid – that hasn’t existed in the Iberian peninsula since the expulsion of the Muslims and the Jews by the Catholic kings in 1492.

Groups like Ojos de Brujo are inspired by the street music you hear floating out of the windows of the houses in the barrio.

This influence is most explicit in the group 08001. The name of the group is the postcode of Raval.

Their Raval Ta Joie (2003) ranges deep into Arabic sounds, West African rhythms and even dub.

Another example is the excellent two disc compilation, Barcelona Raval Sessions, where flamenco and Latin sounds rub shoulders with Punjabi music and Arabic influenced rap. This is the sound of the city today.

Techarí is highly recommended, as is Ojos de Brujo’s concert set for 10 April at the Barbican Centre in London.

The Techarí CD is a gem, with videos, lyrics and a 60 page book full of impressive artwork.

Ojos de Bruto actively participate in the anti-capitalist movement. They operate as a collective, producing their own albums instead of working through a record company. They deserve our support.

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