Ojos de Brujo released a new album, Techarí, earlier this year. Because of inevitable comparisons, sophomore albums are tough for any band. That first time you hear something so different, so unique, so groundbreaking you feel you are experiencing a specific moment in time.
But Techarí is not the Barcelona-based group’s second album—its actually their third. However, it was their previous album, Barí (2002) the one that prompted the flamenco/hip-hop fusion collective to tour non-stop for three years, the breakthrough that made them “world music” staples. Also, since Ojos de Brujo lost the rights to their own songs from Vengue, their first major label release, Techarí, which means “libre” or “free” in the gyspy language of caló, is technically Ojos de Brujo’s second album.
After such negative experience with a major, Ojos de Brujo have fiercely guarded their independence and even formed their own record label—first, Fábrica de Colores and then, after a few legal problems got in the way, that didn’t deter their free spirit and they formed Diquela Records, housed in their own office in Barcelona’s trendy Barri Gotic. All decisions regarding touring, management, distribution, licensing and image are made jointly by the 10 members of the collective.
But back to the music of Techarí. Compared to the explosive tracks found in Barí, Techarí just doesn’t feel as fresh. In old songs such as “Tiempo de Soleá” and “Ventilador R-80”, DJ Panko’s scratches played against and flirted with Ramón Giménez’ sand Paco Lomeña’s flamenco guitars. But Techarí is tamer, veering away from hip-hop and delving deeper into traditional flamenco, or relying on jazz and chilled-out dubs that are not as exciting as their prior work. In an interview a few months ago, Max Wright, Ojos’ beat boxer/rapper/percussionist told me they realized that the hip hop edge had gotten lost in this album, and that the band plans to return to it in their next project.
If Ojos de Brujo started as a troupe of artists and musicians in the bourgeoing Barcelona scene, after their travels they have become global trotters, bringing those influences along this time around. An exciting innovation in the new album is the fusion of flamenco and Punjabi music from northern India with hints of hip-hop in the song “Todo tiende” in which Prithpal Rajput aka “Cyber” from England’s Asian Dub Foundation plays the dhol (Indian drum). Xavi Turull, Ojos de Brujo’s founding member and percussionist, lived in India and Cuba for many years and he brings both influences into the this particular track. “Todo tiende” is also successful because singer Marina Abad and Max both rap while the band makes use of samples, rapid percussions and rabid guitar playing. In this track you can almost get a taste for Ojos de Brujo’s impressive live shows, which are full of energy, and incorporating visuals, dancers, and collective jamming on-stage. You can barely comprehend the scope of their live shows from Techarí, which is a shame.
Overall, Techarí is lacking that hip hop edge that made Ojos de Brujo an innovative force. Put DJ Panko to use!