With the release of Barí, Ojos de Brujo produced not only one of the most exciting releases of recent years but declared a manifesto. Fly caught up with ODB’s DJ Panko to talk flamenco, graffiti and how to beat the multinationals at their own game as their new album drops
Ojos de Brujo are more of a collective concerned with social change and the expression of a fluid sense of identity through music than just a band. The elements they play with such as flamenco, hip hop, funk and dance have all been combined before but no one sounds remotely like ODB. The key, I felt, to understanding the phenomena had to be in the way they worked.
We have graduates of Law, Marketing, Economics and Business not to mention Psychology and Ornithology (how to dodge vultures)
DJ Panko explained the genesis of the project: “we started out not as a band but as different musicians from all over the world trying to fit together in Ramon’s flamenco grooves. We didn’t expect to be a band or even to play live until we started recording the jams. We began to build the songs and find a name for this project. In the beginning, there was no consolidated band. I remember I was playing Spanish guitar on one song, percussion on another, some scratching here and there, some bass in another. New musicians were coming and some going too…”
Their first release created much less impact than its successor and has now been pretty much disowned by the band. They learned the hard way to beware of what you sign up to. Writing it off as a record that belongs to the record company not to them, they determined to set up their own label.
DJ Panko exhales loudly when asked how they keep from killing each other: “We remain friends because we are all involved in the project with the same energy and the same enthusiasm.”
This is usually the end of the story for most bands but for Ojos de Brujo it proved an inspired move. “We have graduates of Law, Marketing, Economics and Business not to mention Psychology and Ornithology (how to dodge vultures),”he laughs before continuing, “we’ve learned the rules that move the unfeeling multinationals for money and power as well as the rules we need to follow to be honest and sincere with our art and our people. We’ve shown we can be independent, free, self-managed and successful.”
Their recently released DVD shows a band dealing with distribution deals and press while playing live across the US and Europe. Demos for their upcoming album Techarí are worked out on the bus and in hotel rooms. Has the work suffered in all this? “It really takes away a lot of time and energy, but you will see in this next album, it hasn’t affected our creativity. We are a big collective, so we divide the functions between all of us and we are getting more people every year to work with us. But it has affected our family relations.” He concedes.
The process of songwriting is, as you would expect, organic, “well, the main thing is that we do songs, and for this we only need voice and a guitar to help the harmony. Then the rhythm comes with the bass line and me on turntables — I’m just decorating the songs — making them spicy. That’s the process more or less. But sometimes we start the process the other way, like on the song ‘Respira’ in the next album, which starts with a cajon rhythm. Anyone can bring an idea and we start building on it.”
“I’m really surprised with the new album. We just needed to make music and this is the result: a very, very nice record that’s gonna surprise all of you. I think it is the best album we have ever made.”
A lot of bands fall out just playing together but add business to the mix and you have a recipe for stress and intrigue. DJ Panko exhales loudly when asked how they keep from killing each other: “We remain friends because we are all involved in the project with the same energy and the same enthusiasm. Especially because we know the only way is to keep together and be really flexible…” I think it goes further than that though. Here is a band of folk committed to a collective model of action and it would be a symbolic failure for them to implode over royalties or who is doing what and when.
“this album has been made by all of us, it has the power of all of us, even more so than Barí.”
In the capital of the anti-globalista movement, Barcelona, they are as likely to play at a street protest as a major venue. They have found a base with the cosmopolitan nature of London but with decent weather too. And while they are undoubtedly part of a scene that includes the iconoclast Manu Chao, perhaps it is with Barcelona’s thriving graffiti scene they feel the most affinity. “What the graffiti artist does is left on the wall and nobody knows who’s gonna paint over it the next day. It’s really volatile just like music itself. And a very important thing we have in common is if the graffiti artist does something to protest social situations with the colors of the spray so do we with the songs we play.”
DJ Panko’s excitement about the new album is uncontainable and infectious, “I’m really surprised with the new album. We just needed to make music and this is the result: a very, very nice record that’s gonna surprise all of you. I think it is the best album we have ever made.” He then reels off a list of collaborators including members of Daara J, Cuban bands and flamenco legends. Most importantly, perhaps, is the sense of ownership the band feels with Techarí, “this album has been made by all of us, it has the power of all of us, even more so than Barí.”
But the message hasn’t changed. “We just want to make everyone more conscious and we believe this way the world can change for the better, everyone sharing instead of fighting for power and money.”
The DVD Girando Barí 2005 is in the shops now and features over 4 hours of live performances and documentary.
Techarí will be released in the UK 20 March, ’06 and their first London show in two years will be the following month at the Barbican 10 April as part of La Linea.