[28 February 2008]
In the past few years, Ojos de Brujo has become one of the leading purveyors of nuevo flamenco. Audiences worldwide began to take notice of them after the release of their breakthrough sophomore album, Barí, and their subsequent 2004 tour. Their Grammy winning follow-up, Techarí, only increased their popularity among lovers of eclectic fusion. Incorporating genres of music such as bhangra, and featuring no less than 14 guests, their most exciting, sonically adventurous record to date is undeniably live album material. Recorded in their hometown on the last date of their 2006 tour, Techarí Live is an aural testament to Ojos’ passion and cohesive musicality.
Charismatic singer Marina Abad’s voice, which is as vibrant as her colorful, flowing clothing, takes center stage on the two Catalan rumbas, “Sultanas de Merkaíllo” and “Bailaores”. The songs’ vivid lyrics are bolstered by blistering solos by Cuban trumpet player Carlos Sarduy. Sarduy, who played on the original album, showcases his impressive chops much more on these extended versions of the songs, as does Cuban pianist Roberto Carcassés, who injects some salsa into the mix with his rousing piano montunos on “Bailaores”.
There is an unexpected moment on the record. In my opinion, no Bob Marley song needs to be redone by anyone. Ever. The results are usually bland. Nevertheless, Ojos de Brujo have taken one of his most enduring anthems, “Get Up, Stand Up”, and reworked it into a flamenco/reggae/salsa jam that is anything but with the help of Senegalese rapper Faada Freddy, who toasts dancehall style on the track. Marina sings the verses partly in English and Spanish, which may throw some listeners off, until the band chimes in with the chorus in English. That the band would feel an affinity for the song makes sense; Marley is an international symbol of freedom—a concept that is at the core of Ojos’ musical and business philosophy.
“Todo Tiende”, which was captivating on the original album, is even more stunning here. Preceded by an interlude of hypnotic strains of the tabla, Marina and special guest Martirio trade subdued vocals until the refrain kicks in. Martirio then punctuates the animated vocal interplay with dramatic flamenco wailing to the delight of the audience. The bhangra/hip-hop infusion comes to a head with Marina and percussionist/vocalist Max Wright’s lightning fast rapping.
Ojos de Brujo’s decision to mix flamenco with so many other seemingly incongruent elements undoubtedly invites the ire of flamenco purists. However, naysayers need only take a listen to “Tanguillos Marineros” to hear their underlying respect for traditional flamenco. Here Marina declares in Spanish: “There are big and little fish / The small ones take off and leave / The big ones eat the little ones… / The small one becomes great, turns into a shark / They join the revolt, Zapata lives, Revolution / They join the revolt, Bolivar lives!” Her populist lyrics are amplified by flamenco dancer Susi’s footwork and frenetic bursts of guitar by Paco Lomeña and Ramón Giménez, both of which garner appreciative cries from the crowd.
The album ends with a remix of “Nana” by Grecian group Palyrria. Although it’s not live, it builds upon the mysterious original track by adding overtones of classical Arab music. The only break in this spell-binding show is the superfluous inclusion of the studio version of their “Get Up, Stand Up” cover, which is already included on another Six Degrees compilation. Despite that, it’s easy to see how this Barcelona octet has gained a reputation for putting on an exuberant live show. This live album cements Ojos de Brujo’s reputation as one of the fieriest collectives that world music has to offer. The group’s commitment to sharing through art is evident not only in their multitude of collaborations, but also in the way they present their music. Unlike other groups that barely include lyrics with their liner notes, they usually like to include extensive artwork that visually represents their lyrics. This CD is accompanied by a DVD that contains a documentary, video diary, and music videos. One walks away with the feeling that Ojos de Brujo were not just satisfied with captivating and thrilling a hometown crowd; they wanted you to have the same visceral experience wherever you are.