Sundays in Laguna - Ojos de Brujo
I was in Laguna at the beach this morning and feeling a Sundays in Laguna coming on, but being fairly certain that nobody wants to hear about my laundry chores there I've decided to send along a little bit different kind of a Valentine from the water's edge this year.
A few weeks ago I was at the Sound Spectrum in Laguna looking for some new music. Jim Otto has owned the store since the sixties and it's one of the last remaining shops from a bygone era along Coast Highway in Laguna. Sound Spectrum is a funky little music store that feels like you're in a time warp from the moment you step through the wooden front door - the smell of incense and the vintage music posters of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrisson on the walls totally blur the lines between thirty years ago and today.
Knowing that I have a keen interest in Spanish and Latin music Jim recommended I try a new album by a group from Spain called Ojos de Brujo - which roughly translated means Eyes of the Wizard. (Or sorcerer.) Jim never steers me wrong so I bought the album and started listening to it in the car on the way home.
Combining influences from their Gypsy/Gitano/Flamenco roots with the contemporary sounds of jazz, techno and hip hop and then blending it all into an unstoppable continuum of Latin and Flamenco rythmns, this eccentric and wildly colorful group of musicians from Barcelona have come up with something truly new and exciting.
Don't let the words hip hop and techno fool you though. Ojos de Brujo's music is still deeply and authentically Spanish with the unmistakable sounds of Flamenco and Gitano ubiquitous throughout. It's this fusion of Flamenco/Gitano with a subtle rap, techno and jazz edge that infuses their music with something I've not heard done quite like this before. And it works.
Oh boy does it work. The music drives and pulses with all of the passion and rythmn that Spanish Gypsy music is known for. But it pushes beyond the boundaries of all that and moves things on into a realm that's new and unexpected. It's like these guys picked up where the Gypsy Kings left off and weren't afraid to roll with it and see where it'd go. It'll start to get under your skin from the first listen and then gradually take you over, till like me you find yourself listening to it all the time because it just keeps getting better and better. Put it on and crank it up when you're cleaning the house - you'll have the work done in half the time because this is music that moves you!
I had the album on in the car when Auri and I were headed to Laguna a few days ago and she goes, "Who is this dad? I like it. I really like it." Considering the 27 year difference in our ages, I think it's safe to say that this music reaches across some pretty broad territory.
Marina "La Canillas" Abad, lead female vocalist for the group has a searingly beautiful, powerful and at times haunting voice that immediately conjurs up visions of gypsies dancing around a campfire in a cave somewhere deep in the heart of Spain. Her passion unleashes itself full-force as she moves from singing into a visceral Spanish rap. Let me tell you though, you ain't never heard rapping like this before. Even if you don't like rap, and a lot of people don't, "La Canillas" will likely change the way you feel about it. It makes so much sense here and seems perfectly at home in the driving, rythmic heart of Flamenco.
This is a woman who knows how to reign it back in though - and when she does she does it beautifully, gliding along effortlessly with some of the more contemporary Latin styled music on the album.
Ojos de Brujo got their start performing in the streets of Barcelona along the Paseo and in the Gothic Quarter - joining an astonishing array of musicians from all over the world who perform in the streets there in exchange for a few coins tossed into their guitar and violin cases. Remembering how amazed I was by the musicians I heard performing in the streets of Barcelona a year and a half ago, it comes as no surprise that Ojos de Brujo rose up from all that. The city attracts and nurtures some pretty amazing talent.
Music is always evolving and though some out there think Flamenco should be left alone, I think that Ojos de Brujo are doing it justice by infusing it with just enough new blood to keep it fresh and interesting while never straying very far from its core.
Let's put it this way, if your hands don't spontaneously fly up over your head and start clapping while you're listening to this album then you probably need to get in to see your doctor as soon as possible. More to the point - if the vocalizing on Gypsy Party (track 6) doesn't make you start stomping your feet and shouting Ole` uncontrollably then there ain't no doctor on earth gonna do you any good. I still can barely drive when that song comes on.
You can visit Ojos de Brujo's website here:
You'll need to set your browser to allow pop-ups for this site since the presentation is in a Flash pop-up window. It's a little tricky getting into the site, but hey, if I can figure it out anybody can.
Or better yet, head on down to Laguna Beach and buy Ojos de Brujo's album directly from Jim. Tell him the guy with the white hair that loves Spanish music sent you. When I told him awhile back that I only buy my music from him now, he replied, "That's why I'm still in business thirty years later." He knows his stuff and no matter what it is you're looking for he's likely to point you in the right direction.
So I'm busier than ever being a hands-on dad and grandpa, crocheting beanie caps every chance I get, working a full week at the office art-directing and doing photography whenever and however I can squeeze it in. But I still always find time to get down to Laguna several times a week for some good grub at the Heidelberg, shopping at Jim's music store and the local surf shop, more ink in my skin and walks on the beach with Auri and the boys. It's a good life and it just keeps getting better and better.
So in lieu of flowers and chocolates this year, my Valentine's gift to all of you sweethearts is my recommendation that you pick up Ojos de Brujo's album and get ready for some serious fun.
which roughly translated into my language means:
Big loves from the water's edge...