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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Ojos de Brujo fueled by flamenco and much more

Special to The Japan Times

Monday is not the best night for going wild and dancing till your legs are about to fall off, but as they say here, "sho ga nai," for that's exactly what you'll have to do on May 30, when Barcelona's Ojos de Brujo hit Shibuya's Duo Music Exchange for their first-ever Japan show.

News photo
Ojos de Brujo want to make you sweat.

Ojos de Brujo are one of those bands that are impossible to classify -- flamenco funk? rumba dub? -- but dead-easy to describe: in a word, irresistible. Their sound -- honed on two albums, "Vergue" and "Bari" -- is a stunning blend of the soul and rhythm of flamenco with all forms of tight, funky modern music.

Their hit "Ventilaor R-80," off last year's "Bari," is a clear guide to their sound: slamming acoustic guitar chords over the galloping percussion of flamenco -- with passionate, half-sung/half-rapped vocals on top by flamenquistaMarina Abad. Like Rachid Taha's recent cover of "Rock the Casbah," this is music that has the rawness and spirit of punk, but thrives even when transplanted into another musical idiom.

Live, Ojos de Brujo are a 10-piece, with an anarchic penchant for jamming and letting the music flow. Marina's vocals, which display an inventive sense of hip-hop rhythm, have become the band's signature, but they've also got the flamenco guitar combo of Ramon Jimenez and Paco Lomena, sub-bass punch provided by Javier Martin, DJ Panko working the decks, a triple percussion battery featuring everything from the traditional cajon(box-drum) to Indian tablas, and human beatbox Max Wright.

While flamenco has been a conservative art form for some time, Ojos de Brujo have found a natural progression. The band points to flamenco's tradition of "ida y vuelta" (literally: "gone and back again"), which led to New World influences in the music, as well as the varied (Gypsy, Arab, Jewish, Andalusian) roots of the music. In short, re-inventing the music is no crime.

While purists seem to have a problem with things like palmas(Flamenco's signature hand-claps) being matched with scratching, the rest of us should have no problem. As Marina noted (in an interview on www.flamenco-world.com ), in Ojos de Brujo's fusion: "There's nothing forced. The key is that the fusion is in every one of us." Guitarist Ramon added: "Flamenco is inside us, just like many other musicians. Music grows when it feeds on other sources."

For connoisseurs of hybrid music, this is your must-see gig of 2005.

Ojos de Brujo: May 30, 7 p.m. at Shibuya Duo Music Exchange. Tickets are 6,000 yen, available through ticket Pia or Plankton. For more info, call Plankton at (03) 3498-2881, or see www.plankton.co.jp

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