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Blog // Sounds
March 24, 2010

Ojos De Brujo

One of the most surprising inclusions in this year’s Hong Kong Arts Festival line-up was Catalan group Ojos De Brujo. Typically the HKAF organisers do a good job of showcasing internationally diverse music. However, Ojos de Brujo are a decidedly more pop offering than is typical for this festival. I suspect that a small percentage […]

One of the most surprising inclusions in this year’s Hong Kong Arts Festival line-up was Catalan group Ojos De Brujo. Typically the HKAF organisers do a good job of showcasing internationally diverse music.

However, Ojos de Brujo are a decidedly more pop offering than is typical for this festival. I suspect that a small percentage of the audience may have be surprised by how loud and vibrant their performance was. Were they expecting a more straightforward flamenco show, something like the Gypsy Kings? I don’t know, but judging by some of the bemused responses around me, that may have been the case.

What Ojos de Brujo are known for and what they gave Hong Kong last Tuesday night is a tight, fun and punchy blend of traditional Catalan music, rumba, funk, hip-hop along with a general grab bag of world music influences.

They are also one of the hottest bands in the world right now. Touring on the the back of the Aocana album Ojos De Brujo have really hit their stride as a live act. It’s no wonder since their original musical fusion is supported by a great onstage presence.

Lead singer Marina Abad has a stage presence that commands attention along with the vocal chops to back it up. In fact, she does a wonderful job of bringing a Moorish flamenco style into this contemporary setting. Susana Medina is the band’s resident Flamenco dancer and backup vocalist (including flamenco dace as an “instrument” is brilliant move). Maxwell Wright played percussion, did some great beat-boxing and was the band’s rapper – with an infectious, fluent and caffeinated style of vocal riffing. Carlitos Sarduy played keys and trumpet – his jazz styled solos added a lot of colour and contrast to the band. DJ Panko played turntables, samples and synth bass and played a big role in getting the audience involved in the show. The band really benefited from a solid rhythm section, including Kiki Ferrer on drums and the excellent Javi Martin on bass.

The name Ojos de Brujo translates as eyes of the wizard (or eyes of the warlock) and comes from Gypsy heritage of guitarist and band founder and guitarist Ramon Gimenez. It’s a world-view that permeates their music; an insight into the hope and joy that is possible despite the craziness of this world.

Having been to a number of concerts now in Hong Kong I find audiences here can often be warm and even vocal in their appreciation of a good concert, but they are slow to get up and dance. However, Ojos De Brujo (like Omar Sosa at last year’s festival) were able to draw some of the audience to their feet and get large sections of the crowd moving in their seats.

From my completely biased, Spanish-speaking, Latin music oriented perspective this was easily the best and most entertaining pop concert I’ve attended in Hong Kong. Congratulations to the Hong Kong Arts Festival organisers for bringing this kind of lively and contemporary group to Hong Kong.

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