[19 October 2006]
Some albums develop slowly, revealing their musical treasures only after repeated listens. Others are superficially stunning, but the initial amazement they inspire proves to be short-lived. Techarí, the third album by Barcelona-based Ojos de Brujo, is a completely different kind of album, one that delights and exhilarates immediately and only gets better after multiple spins. From the beginning of the album to the end of its last track, the identity of Techarí is clear: it is one of the freshest and most interesting albums of the year.
The music of Ojos de Brujo (Spanish for “Eyes of the Wizard”) falls under the broad classification of modern flamenco, but this label is a poor descriptor of the band’s cosmopolitan sound. Although the group is rooted in the captivating melodies and virtuosic guitar of traditional Spanish and gypsy music, their songs encompass a global range of influences. Techarí‘s eclecticism is evident from the first track, “Color”, which finds gypsy folk music jostling the bouncing bass, syncopated guitars, and horn licks of funk, and it is a driving force behind the rest of the album.
Some reviews can adequately serve an album by mentioning only the highlights; Techarí defies such criticism. Each track is a highlight: every song reveals a facet of the larger musical personality of Ojos de Brujo and remains inspiring in its own right. “Sultanas de Merkaillo” is a flamenco rumba that includes poetic lyrics, some of which translate into English as “Dunes and fine sand of golden copper / Raise the speckled and violet dawn.” “Todo Tiende” draws heavily from Bhangra music, while “El Confort No Reconforta” shows the group using hip-hop beats and vocals. “Silencio” features the sounds of drum and bass music, while “Corre Lola Corre” mixes reggae and flamenco. These songs are only a small sampling of the riches on Techarí. The album contains eight more songs, and each one presents a slightly different sonic approach.
An album as sonically diverse as Techarí could easily become abrasive, but the members of Ojos de Brujo are able to smoothly navigate between different genres and create songs that are stimulating rather than disorienting. They create innovative music without sacrificing the elements that often make music attractive. Smooth harmonies augment the charming melodies. Virtuosic instrumentals serve the music, not the performers’ egos, and complex percussion parts and tricky rhythms seldom detract from the album’s overall danceability.
Serious fans of so-called “world music” will find much to celebrate. Besides the obvious variety of ethnic styles it includes, the album features contributions from some of the brightest music stars from around the world. The album’s prestigious guest list includes Senegalese emcee Faada Freddy, Asian Dub Foundation member Prithpal Rajput, South Indian fusion artist Nitin Sawhney, and Cuban pianist Roberto Carcassés. These artists each contribute unique flavors to the main group’s sonic stew and increase the authenticity of Ojo de Brujo’s globetrotting approach.
As an added bonus, the band members have delivered their music in elaborate packaging, including a colorful 36-page booklet and a CD-ROM. These extras provide further evidence of Ojos de Brujo’s commitment to art. In the end, it is this commitment which drives the album and makes Techarí so appealing. Seasoned world music fans will savor the ethnic eclecticism and top-notch playing. Those who never listen to world music will have the chance to hear an exotic spin on several more popular styles. Anyone who is looking for interesting and rewarding music need look no farther than Techarí. An exciting musical journey from start to finish, the album is definitely a treasure.