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Amparanoia V Ojos de Brujo

PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 5:28 pm
by howard male
As the man said: let's get back to the music!

Amparanoia V Ojos de Brujo

Isn't it about time world music had its own little Beatles v Stones or Oasis v Blur angle? Well, I thought so. And the natural contenders are all set to do battle next month with Amparanoia releasing their new album 'La Vida te Da' on the 6th March and Ojos de Brujo releasing their 'Techari' on the 20th.

Now I know we world music fans are above such media invented skirmishes, but I'm sure the record companies of both groups are aware of each others plans, and both seem to be doing everything within their powers (or promotional budgets) to make the media pay their particular Spanish baby the most attention: the Ojos album comes with an extra disc of CD Rom, bits and bobs, and the Amparanoia has a DVD of home-movieish footage of rehearsals and concerts in pretty much the same ragbaggy, shaky camera style as the Ojos DVD that came out at the same time as Bari was released.

The comparisons don't stop there: both bands feature sassy, characterful female lead vocalists; both are playing the La Linea '06 Festival; both have strong political motivations and ideals; both adorn their CDs with original and striking artwork rather than their own image, and both are trying to build on their relatively successful previous UK breakthrough releases. Although to be more accurate the last Amparanoia released here, 'Rebeldia con Alegria', was a best of their previous efforts, which hadn't been properly released in the UK.

As far as I can tell, Ojos are ahead in the UK Battle of the Spanish Bands at the present time. Their 2002 release, Bari, resulting in an appearance at Glastonbury, and on BBC 2's Later. They even gleaned reviews in The Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail, which must be an extremely rare but perhaps mixed blessing for a world music act. Whilst Amparanoia, who won a Radio 3 world music award last year, haven't yet had a chance to capitalise on that success.

But things could be about to change. The new Ojos album, on initial acquaintance, doesn't seem to have the spontaneous freshness of 'Bari'.

It opens promisingly enough with 'color', a barking mad Blaxploitation-Flamenco crossover - lots of strident Quincy Jones brass added to the usual mix of scratching and strumming, but then...Well, the rest of the album's just not as chunky, funky and varied in tone as 'Bari' And the welcome surprise of the brass section never makes a comeback, and so I found my attention start to drift before the CD was over. Only on track 10 do they take a bit of a laid-back reggae break before getting into the final stretch of another four Flamenco-driven workouts.

I've always felt the problem with Ojos is based around what the band say they are trying to do, which is to blend Flamenco with their more contemporary influences such as funk and hip hop. It's just that those Flamenco genes will always dominate - there is no room for any other kind of music to get a look in, so that what you end up with is an extremely busy sound which initially exites but eventually gets a little wearing.

Amparanoia, on the other hand, seem to be getting into their stride on this their 5th album proper. And they're also not afraid to occasionally relax a little. One reason for their apparent ability to just treat songs as songs - rather than strum them to death due to an almost Tourette Syndrome relationship to Flamenco punctuation - is that their influences are wider. Flamenco pretty much takes a back-seat to reggae, rock, Cuban and other Latin American influences. Take the delightful 'Tiempo Pa Mi' on the new album, which begins as the most delicate of torch songs but then halfway through morphs into a rumbustious salsa.

However the reggae influence does unfortunately get the better of them with a rather pointless and quite frightening rock guitar-scarred cover of Redemption Song. But at least it's just a bonus track tagged on at the end, so can be easily avoided. But bad Bob Marley covers aside, La Vida Te Da is a relaxed and accomplished affair. And they're also not afraid to introduce new elements to their sound such as the deliciously fluid slide guitar which pops up every now and then. All the songs were recorded in the modern, revived retro way with the band playing together in the studio and this really freshens up their sound which was getting a bit beatboxy and stodgy on 2002's 'Enchilao'.

I also find Amparo Sanchez the more commanding and unique of the two lead vocalists. Obviously it's horses for courses, and Marina "La Canilla" voice sits quite comfortably in the controlled racket that Ojos generate, but I wonder if it would work so well as a commanding presence given the space to breath that Amparo often gives herself. It would seem that, as the main songwriter, producer and 'Artistic Director' of Amparanoia (her name is even built into the band's name), they wouldn't exist without her. Whereas Marina is clearly part of a collective of equals and almost, as a logical extension of that, often gets somewhat buried in the band's overall sound.

But both of these interesting bands have their place in the world music scheme of things, and just as with the ostensibly meaningless false dichotomy I began with, of The Beatles V The Stones, they share certain influences, and their deepest roots, but also exist as quite independent and very different musical entities, equally worthy of our attention.

But which band gets your vote?

PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 8:42 pm
by Dominic

PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 9:01 pm
by NormanD
Amparanoia. I've with Dominic on this too.

I hope to be able to say, many years hence: "I saw them in this tiny London venue, and I was this close..."

I have, and love, the last Ojos cd but reports of their live act weren't too positive. Playing in the cavernous Hammersmith, they made my friend's eyes and ears hurt.


Oye escuchar

PostPosted: Wed Feb 08, 2006 10:05 am
by Con Murphy
I have a friend who upon reaching a certain juncture in nascent romances will allow the burgeoning liaison to stand or fall on the simple one-word answer to the question: “Beatles or Stones?â€

PostPosted: Wed Feb 08, 2006 10:28 am
by howard male
An enjoyable summary Con. And of course I was thinking of your Clash comparison as I was writing my piece - I was expecting you to gallantly dive in nano seconds after it was posted in defence of your heroes, but I can see you needed to spend a bit of time putting your case together!

You are definitely right in saying there is something about Amparanoia which is more instantly assimilated and the Ojos sound is a more complex entity. It's just that my feeling is perhaps it's too complex. I would like to see a producer come in and persuade them to strip their sound down a bit. Everyone in the band seems to follow the same staccato, Flamenco rhythm; tabla, guitar, scratching - even Marina's voice - they all love that damn rhythm! When I was watching the excellent DVD you mention and they were putting ideas together, I find myself willing Marina to just sing a melody 'across' the rhythm rather than just join in on it.

But I'm hoping this topic will stay active or become active again once the new CD's are out. I'll be curious to see whether these new albums change anyone's perspective on the bands.

PostPosted: Wed Feb 08, 2006 2:23 pm
by joel

PostPosted: Wed Feb 08, 2006 2:24 pm
by joel
I haven't heard Amparanoia (so there's still hope), but found Ojos de Brujos' stulitifyingly dull "beats", grosser cliche "turntableism", and flakey flamenco "Exoticism" more than a touch underwhelming.
I am, of course, the board's token macho "ethno fundie".
Which is why I recommend this

Joel - mas duro que el acero

Spanish revolution

PostPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2006 9:29 am
by Con Murphy ... 344367.ece

The political fusion music springing from Spain

By Elizabeth Nash

Back in 1979, prompted by the death of the dictator Franco, Spain's youngsters dropped flamenco and syncopated clapping in the streets, to embrace the hedonism of la movida. They craved punk, anarchism and sexual excess: the things they'd never had.

Today, the streets of Madrid and Barcelona echo once more to those broken rhythms. From the urban mixed-race neighbourhoods has sprung a colony of young musicians with a distinctive voice. They've taken Spain's ancient Gypsy and Moorish traditions and reworked them with a joyful vibrancy.

Amparanoia and Ojos de Brujo head a movement that has transformed Spanish popular music. Ojos de Brujo (Sorcerer's Eyes), are an eight-strong group fronted by the pipe-smoking Gypsy Marina las Canillas. This lively collective spikes flamenco with rap, hip-hop, reggae, African and Caribbean rhythms driven by strumming guitars and electronic technology imported from New York dance-halls. Fusion seems a limp description for this extravagant mix.

Ojos de Brujo emerged from a group of buskers living in a squat in Barcelona's Raval district, the red-light quarter. Like the young Turks 25 years ago, today's mestizo (mongrel) bands defiantly reflect the explosive social transformations rippling through Spain.

Ojos de Brujo rail against war, global poverty, slums and racism, and champion the cause of squatters, outcasts and losers. But only now, as Ojos' reputation sweeps south of the Pyrenees, is mass acclaim building at home.

This is Spain's first pop music not to ape European styles. It looks to Africa and the Maghreb, and to Latin America, mirroring social trends. Spain's metropolitan society has within a decade become a mosaic of colours, languages and cultures to match London, Paris or Lisbon.

Groups such as Amparanoia and Ojos de Brujo stake no claim to pure flamenco. "Flamenco is a serious business. We are not flamencos, there are plenty of others doing a good job at that," says Ojos' Ramon Gimenez, 36, a Gypsy and flamenco guitarist.

But traditional music in its pure form doesn't connect with young people, they reckon. So they rip old forms from their moorings, reconstruct them with new instruments and crash them together with the street language of today's urban young.

"This is the point of their music," says Fernando Neira, critic for the daily El Pais. "They've decontextualised flamenco from any trace of authenticity, to create something new. Their music is intensely rhythmic and hedonistic."
Madrid's socially disadvantaged immigrant quarter, Lavapies, inspires Amparanoia. Backed by a Cuban percussionist and Mexican trumpeter, spike-haired Amparo Sanchez, 36, the charismatic leader of her troupe, belts out her songs with a panache that won the group the BBC's World Music Award for best European Act in 2005.

Steeped in the flamenco of her Andalusian homeland, Sanchez claims she was inspired as a teenager by American blues and soul: Billie Holliday, Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin.

Amparanoia's 2004 UK debut album was called Rebeldia con Alegria (rebellion with joy) which sums up the genre. Her life-affirming La Vida te da appears shortly.

A mother at 17, Sanchez came to Madrid 10 years ago with her son and settled in Lavapies. There she absorbed the blistering rhythms of her multi-ethnic neighbours, and became friends with the Paris-born Spaniard Manu Chao, godfather of Spain's Afro-Latin fusion scene.

"Manu Chao taught me it was OK to take interesting bits from different kinds of music and put them together," Sanchez says. A spell in Mexico with the Zapatistas in 2000 stiffened her rhythm section and her commitment to fight injustice and war "through words, not violence".

Her music draws upon flamenco, reggae and African, Cuban, even Balkan rhythms. But fans rate her equally for her campaigns against globalisation and for women's rights, and she's much in demand for benefit concerts for left-wing causes.

A subculture of squatters and alternative politics has produced confident professionals with all their blazing spontaneity intact. And close behind, an army of like-minded performers advance from the slums and industrial suburbs to record slick, sparkling tracks on multi-CD sets such as Barcelona Raval Sessions Volume 2. Spain today is a crossing point for peoples who may have risked their lives for a foothold in Europe.Spain's avant-garde artists give voice to this historic moment.

Elizabeth Nash's 'Seville, Cordoba and Granada: a Cultural and Literary History' is published by Signal

PostPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2006 9:35 am
by Con Murphy
I have to say I find 'Sorceror's Eyes' a much more evocative translation than 'Eyes of the Wizard'.

PostPosted: Fri Feb 10, 2006 2:16 pm
by Chris Walsh
Unfortunately - I do have several opinions about the whole Amparanoia v Ojos debate - however, I'll have to sit this debate out because I'm too closely involved in one of the releases, and I could end up hanging myself with words!

spanish bands

PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 8:58 pm
by garth cartwright
This is an odd posting for many reasons: first up, i don't much rate either band. If i had to choose one I'd say Amparanoia as they're less cluttered, less obsessed with being 'cutting edge hip', more melodic. But even then i think they're pretty average. Pleasant ya know but not great.

Anyway, the odd reason for writing this involves a feature i wrote for fR several years ago about the burgeoning Barcelona scene - i was spending a lot of time in Barcelona and having intvd Manu Chao (King of Barcelona) and heard about all the underground musical energy in that city I'd gone and found a few cds, interviewed various people, one of whom was Daniel Mono Loco who fronted a band called I think Macaco ( i had a look for the CD and can't find it) as well as then being lead singer for Ojos De Brujo.

Macaco were very similar in sound to Manu Chao - a factor that initially suggested they would score great success, instead they appear to have stalled. Anyway, Dani gave me the first Ojos De Brujo CD where he sang lead - it was a rougher effort than we have come to know from them but in some ways is their best: their more polished efforts demonstrate a serious lack of songwriting ability and as someone who listens to a lot of flamenco and hip-hop i find they play the former very badly whilst their attempts to mix hip-hop beats are abysmal. Yes, they are like the Clash - the Clash of Sandinista who had become a bunch of jaded dilettantes trying to play every musical style going and doing none particularly well.
The new album hasn't done anything to change that view - they're yet to write A White Man In Hammersmith Palais and their female singer lacks much of a voice.

Amparanoia are less annoying but share with Ojos a tendency to resemble certain UK festival bands - Transglobal Underground, Loop Guru, Zion Train - in their rush to blend dub beats with a bit of Arabic or whatever else was on hand to sample. Amparanoia are better than the UK bands simply cos they're less hung up on forcing electronic beats on tunes that don't necessarily sustain them. Also, they have a way with a melody that can be very pleasant. But they are still all over the place and the songs are rarely memorable.

Ojos are just annoying - too selfconsciously hip to write simple, good songs. they remind me of the kind of fusion bands The Face used to champion - remember how one member always had dreads, another had lived in Brooklyn and known Kool Herc, another grew up on Ibiza etc etc

What makes Manu Chao stand so head n shoulders above everyone else mentioned is his songwriting skill and the lack of clutter on his recordings - admittedly this took him a while: listening to Mano Negra one hears a wannabe Clash that rarely achieved what they aimed for.

So maybe there's hope for Amparanoia and Ojos De Brujo yet.

PostPosted: Tue Mar 21, 2006 10:42 am
by howard male
Your solid chunks of rant always make me smile, Garth.

I actually appreciate most of what you say about both bands. The albums of Amparanoia have an instant appeal but then that appeal dims quite quickly - I think they need to find a more left-field producer to screw up their sound a bit.

And Ojos just clutter things up too much, all hammering away on the same beat including the vocalist - though I'm sure I'll see the point of them more when I see them live.

Yes, whatever happened to Macaco? Well, Dani pops up as a guest vocalist on the new Amparanoia, and I did manage to get hold of two of their albums both of which I liked very much at the time, but haven't played in ages.

Do They Mean Us...?

PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2006 1:14 pm
by Con Murphy ... mbar06.xml

A new compilation has showcased the strength in depth of the city's musical scene. Peter Culshaw reports

"Barcelona has always had a reputation for independence, for radicalism; and it's a port, like Liverpool, which creates a fascinating cultural blend, and the music reflects that."
The speaker is Xavi, of Ojos de Brujo ("Sorcerer's Eyes"), just one of the bands from Barça finding an international audience for their alchemical mix of styles, from flamenco to pop via hip hop. Charlie Gillett, the leading world-music DJ, concurs. "Right now," he has observed, "you can feel in Barcelona some kind of sense of musical community that only happens in very special historical moments."
He was discussing a compilation, The Barcelona Raval Sessions, which revealed the strength in depth of the city's musical scene, and of the sound variously dubbed "El Sonida del Puerto" ("The sound of the port") and the rather less geographical "Barcelona Bastardo".
Another artist from Barcelona making big waves outside Spain is Amparo Sanchez, whose band Amparanoia share Ojos de Brujo's love of adventurous musical mixage, their alternative, backpacker aesthetic and their taste for political songs about the dispossessed. Both have new albums out, and are appearing in London as part of the La Linea festival of Latin music - indeed, Amparanoia have already played here.
On Gillett's website,, there are impassioned interventions from fans of each band, and talk of this as world music's equivalent of the infamous Britpop Blur vs Oasis feud.If there is rivalry between the bands, it is partly about which is the most radical. As Xavi says, "With Amparo, she is a leader and everyone works for her. But we are a collective - we split the money and everybody contributes equally to the music." Sounds good in theory, but don't they argue all the time? "Not as much as you would think. But things take longer…"
Both Sanchez and Xavi are keen to convey that one of the big attractions of the Barcelona scene is the "musical feedback" the city enjoys with Cuba. There are numerous Cuban musicians in the city, most notably Anga Diaz, whose album Echu Mingua last year represented a fascinating mix of salsa, jazz, beats, scratching and samples of vintage Cuban vinyl. Diaz is a bridge between the old-style traditionalists and the modern sound of Cuban rappers like X Alfonso. Indeed, both are also appearing at La Linea.
I caught Diaz playing in a small Barça jazz club, with Cuban bassist Cachaito Lopez and flamenco pianist Chano Domingues. The trio had never played before, apart from a two-hour rehearsal, but their spontaneity and musicality was breathtaking.
For Diaz, what is happening in the city is just the start. "It's the beginning of a strong new music and new fusions. As long as the spirit is there, you can play with any type of musician and let the music take you to a higher level."
Ojos de Brujo and Anga Diaz play the La Linea Festival at the Barbican, London EC2, on Mon and April 15 respectively. Details:

PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2006 1:50 pm
by howard male
Well, Amparanoia laid down the gauntlet last Saturday at the Coronet, and a fine performance they gave too. Though the hour-long wait outside in the cold didn't put Marcia and I in the best of moods to appreciate them. That place really needs to get it's door policy sorted out. We were told, as collectiors of tickets, to stand in one long queue. Then just as we were feet from getting into the building, we were told to move to (the back!) of another long queue.