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Barcelona’s 10-piece traveling Gypsy music carnival, Ojos De Brujo, caught the attention of music fans around the world by splicing their infectious flamenco rhythmic patterns with any and every sonic texture they could get their ears on. From America hip-hop to Indian bhangra, the musical adventurers continue to broaden their already vast musical landscape on their third album, Techarí.
On this new effort, released on their own equally new label, Diquela Records, Ojos function more like an entrepreneurial locomotive than simply the garish face of neo-flamenco. Yet despite investing energy and time in handling everything from promotion to licensing themselves, the band whose name means “wizard’s eyes” continues to look forward with a sense of energy and invention.
“Barí was loaded with the experience of traveling together and getting to know each other’s musical instruments and style of playing,” says Max Wright, who plays percussion and raps in the band. “Now that we have that, we’ve begun investigating different musical styles. For example, in ‘Respira’ there’s seguirilla—a 12-beat flamenco cycle similar to soléa and bulería that is usually a slow tempo, but that we kinda mixed into reggae.”
While Techarí doesn’t have the first-impression novelty their first two albums did, it’s Ojos’ most stylistically ambitious and avant-garde work to date, with a number of collaborations with friends they’ve met along the way. “There are people that have meant a lot to us during our musical careers and thanks to God, we’ve been able to meet and collaborate with them on this album.”
Ojos’ sonic expansionist doctrine couldn’t be more audible than on the superb single, “Todo Tiende,” where Asian Dub Foundation’s drummer, Pritpal “Cyber” Rajput, plays the dhol, a small percussion instrument used in festive Indian bhangra music from the Punjab region. While a few tracks suffer from adding too many ingredients to the pot, on “Todo Tiende” they add just as many spices and somehow still get it right.
More than a simple collaboration, there is a true affinity with the Senegalese rap trio Daara J, who appear on “Runali,” which originally came together when both groups partied and jammed after they each won the award for Best Band of their respective continents—Europe and Africa—at the 2004 BBC Radio Awards for World Music. “It was very special night for both of us—huge emotions,” recalls Wright.
Wright acknowledges that there are few line-up changes for the new album, but he feels it’s for the better: “The main change on Techarí was definitely [founding member and bassist] Juanlu’s departure. Juanlu left for personal reasons and wanted to do his own project. And then Javi Martin joined. He’s a spectacular musician who I think has added much more to the band with his experience and knowledge of flamenco. He’s recording at the moment with Duquende—one of the biggest voices in flamenco right now.”
Another new face is Carlitos Sarduy, a 21-year-old trumpeter from Cuba. “Adding a trumpet,” explains Wright, “is something very distinct in Ojos, because the only melodic instruments we’ve had until now were the guitar and bass. Suddenly having someone who is free to not only do the rhythmical breaks, but to also fly on the trumpet, gives incredible new melodic dimension which adds a lot, especially to rumba.”
But the freedom that the title of the album suggests (techarí means “free” in the Gypsy dialect Caló) isn’t espoused only in the music. It’s also in their lyrics and politics as well as the group’s approach to life.
In Spain, for example, where the race and immigration debate is boiling, sticking up for s