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Ojos de Brujo
Vengue
Edel, Spain (www.ojosdebrujo.com)

Ojos de Brujo is a musical project created by a collective of young Spanish musicians who use flamenco as a foundation for cross-genre experimentation. They incorporate elements of hip-hop, funk, salsa, and reggae into a rootsy flamenco underpinning to create an exciting and accessible new sound. Ojos de Brujo have a style that is similar, yet ultimately more successful than another young experimental Spanish group, Los Martires del Compas. The new Ojos de Brujo album, Vengue, is a fascinating and entertaining collection of songs that manage to reflect equal amounts of traditional and contemporary flavors.

Ojos de Brujo was formed by members of Fabrica de Colores, a loose knit group of artists in Barcelona. Lead singer Dani "Monoloco" is also the front man for the innovative pop group Macaco which will be certainly making waves internationally in the near future. Monoloco's voice is light and controlled, yet rough around the edges and very expressive. Guitarists Ramón and Antonio lay down funky rumba flamenca grooves throughout. The percussive elements of flamenco are highlighted by Xavi Turull, a master of the cajón, the wooden crate that was imported into flamenco from Cuba and Peru. Colombian percussionist Beto, also a member of Macaco, adds a bubbly Latin flavor to the rhythm. Topping it all off is DJ Panko, a veteran of the Barcelona club scene who provides subtle and tasteful samples and scratching.

Nearly every track on Vengue is exceptional, but there are a number of standouts. "Vacileo" is an upbeat gypsy rumba with strong Latin flavors that sounds like what the Gipsy Kings would sound like if they were soulful and innovative. "Rumba Dub Style" is a fast, funky, flamenco pop tune with elements of rap and fluttery Eastern European brass. The beautiful, lushly orchestrated flamenco ballad "Palabras Blancas" includes Indian tablas so masterfully that they seem to fit in perfectly with the elaborate Spanish guitar accompaniment (as do the quiet scratches and samples laid down in the background by DJ Panko).

Vengue is a unique and innovative album that manages to sound very Spanish, even though it is borrowing from a variety of styles and traditions. This is probably because the members clearly consider flamenco to be the heart and soul of their sound. Ojos de Brujo, along with other inventive groups like Macaco and Los Martires del Compas, are on the leading edge of an exciting musical movement in Spain today. - Jacob Edgar


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