Flamenco Adrenaline Rush

Ojos de Brujo

Bari (World Village, 2002)

Hailing from Spain, Ojos de Brujo‘s Bari brings on an adrenaline rush. These young flamenco performers create music with fury and the angst of a disenfranchised teenager. When I slipped this disc into my stereo, the room soon filled with the staccato beats that you would expect from flamenco music. The hard rain was bouncing off the pavement keeping time with the polyphonic beats (including rap vocals, percussion and a deejay scratching vinyl) and I knew something magical was occurring.

Paying homage to another flamenco iconoclast, Camarón de la Isla and sporting rave fashion, these gypsies and non-gypsies perform post modern flamenco. The old sounds such as wailing vocals, flamenco guitar and passion come through here, but they are updated with global instruments such as the Indian tabla and the Brazilian berimbau. The musicians add a deejay, rock/funk guitar and bass. And they do this quite well. They could even be called a sister group to Mexico’s Los de Abajo who fuse folkloric songs with modern trappings.

The lyrics are typical of gypsy or flamenco performers, reflecting on socio-economic issues, justice, wasted youth and liberation of the soul. Unlike, other young traditional groups such as Sweden’s Garmarna and Poland’s Warsaw Village Band who rely heavily on traditional songs and tales, Ojos de Brujo compose their own songs and reflect on the experiences of today’s youth. I enjoy both approaches, the traditional and the contemporary.

If it wasn’t for the flamenco guitar, shouts of olè, indigenous flamenco rhythms, dance and vocals, I doubt Ojos de Brujo could even be called traditional. The musicians stray from course, but never lose sight of their gypsy roots. On the liner notes, the musicians speak of Bari, the equivalent of duende. They speak of magic, witches and wizards and they sing about the planet earth. They are angry and they turn flamenco into a de facto rock music that recalls the days when rock musicians were more interested in social justice than stardom.

I imagine that Ojos de Brujo (Wizard Eyes) won’t excite everyone that listens to this CD. For those folks who prefer the Gypsy Kings and savory love songs won’t find that here. Marrying the angst and suffering of flamenco’s old school with lyrics that reflect on the current era, these musicians are focused on the darker side of life. And yet, a few of these tracks are so stunning that it is easy to transcend the gloom.

Bari is the perfect album for individuals with a sober gaze at life. This is clear-eyed music that creates a bridge between flamenco’s roots and its many branches. The music reaches back to its Indian and Arabic roots and then stretches into the era of rave culture and global consciousness.

This archival review by Patty-Lynne Herlevi formerly appeared on Cranky Crow World Music

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