Ojos de Brujo Setting Sights on America

Dynamic music group Ojos de Brujo is embarking on a U.S. tour from Barcelona. While their music is definitely flamenco, they fuse other elements from reggae to jazz to electronica.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

They've been called one of the hottest live acts on the planet and you can hear why. The Spanish group Ojos de Brujo combined a super-charged passion of their native flamenco roots with jazz, reggae, hip-hop and Indian music. It's a global musical mix that all comes together on their latest CD. Producer Derek Rath talked with one of the band members from Barcelona about the group's American tour, which begins tonight.

(Soundbite of song, "Color")

DEREK RATH: This is "Color" from Ojos de Brujo's latest CD "Techari," and straightaway you can hear the richness of ingredients and astonishing musicianship. Put them together and you have a heck of a live show, which is exactly what Ojos de Brujo are about to unleash on America.

(Soundbite of "Color")

RATH: Studio and live performance are two different animals, and this live recording, done two years ago, illustrates the intensity of their stage performances.

(Soundbite of song, "Color")

RATH: Their mix is perfectly natural. Flamenco, like jazz and blues, relies a lot on musical call and response, as on this track, "Feedback."

(Soundbite of song, "Feedback")

RATH: The mix is perfectly natural. Flamenco, like jazz and blues, relies a lot on musical call and response, as on this track, "Feedback."

(Soundbite of song, "Feedback")

RATH: Percussionist Xavi Turull talked with me about the key to Ojos de Brujo's success, staring with the nature of flamenco itself.

Mr. XAVI TURULL (Ojos de Brujo): It's very rich rhythmically. It has this improvisation feel.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. TURULL: Flamenco is like blues, man. And blues has this incredible - started slowly and started to make an evolution, went into all these different styles. And look at - now in the U.S. what incredible music they have there. That's going to happen also with flamenco.

RATH: Creating the music is truly a collective effort amongst the band's dozen or so members. It's what Xavi thinks gives them their strength in live performance.

Mr. TURULL: You know, we're all the time trying all the possibilities, all the ideas that everyone brings on to the table. It's really a little bit anarchic in a way - or a lot anarchic - but it gives a lot of richness, you know, and everybody onstage feels that it's his music, you know?

(Soundbite of music)

RATH: Ojos de Brujo translates as eyes of the wizard, a phrase closely associated with flamenco's gypsy heritage. Xavi Turull explains the importance of their roots and you begin to understand the power that comes from this ensemble, born on the fringe of society.

Mr. TURULL: I think this last latest album, "Techari," is a little bit stronger flamenco than the second one, "The Bari."

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. TURULL: That's our heart, you know, our soul. In a way, you know, all the people that's in the band comes from other flamenco-fusion experiments. When we think of a rhythm or we think of a song, we always relate it to some kind of flamenco rhythm or harmony or style, you know?

(Soundbite of song, "Todo Tiende")

RATH: This tune, "Todo Tiende," comes from the "Techari," which means free. And Xavi feels just that whenever their flamenco roots take to the stage.

Mr. TURULL: If you don't stop us, we can play up to three hours. I tell you. Because now we have so many songs, you know? But usually we do around two to two and a half hours.

RATH: Ojas de Brujo's contemporary reworking of flamenco has been a shot in the arm for one of the most venerated music forms. Xavi sees a promising future ahead for the band.

Mr. TURULL: Every different style has had its moment, you know? Blues had its high moment. Brazilian music, Cuban music also is another rich music, has had its moment. And now it's time for flamenco, for Indian music, for these other really incredibly rich musics that we have all around the world. Flamenco, I think, is one of them, you know?

RATH: For NPR News, this is Derek Rath.

BRAND: The band is Ojos de Brujo. The CD is called "Techari." You can hear the band live at venues around the country starting tonight in downtown Los Angeles.

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