Interview: Rafael Manjavacas
The Ojos de Brujo group keeps moving along,
and now we’ve got their third recorded work, “Techarí”,
a free-wheeling recording that which was hard to make
after the success of “Barí”. They’ve
been touring throughout the world for nearly three years,
with scarce time to stop and record, and under plenty
of pressure to do so, both externally and from within
the group itself because of the need to continue to
offer new experiences to the ODB project. Working in
a self-management system they themselves have imposed
since the beginning, they’ve been able to go far
with their own record company, their own management
office and some very clear objectives: mainly, to cover
the necessities they themselves have created. Ramón
Giménez and Marina la Canillas, flamenco guitar
and voice respectively, are in charge of the promotion.
This is the third interview they’ve had with us
and it was hardly necessary to ask any questions, ODB
know what they want.
What does “Techarí”
mean in the gypsy tongue of caló?
Are you free?
Marina: Let’s just say the title
of the record is a declaration of intent, we’re
still here and this is our path, which doesn’t
necessarily mean we have freedom at the tip of our fingers.
You never have complete freedom, but you can be certain
that whatever we put our minds to, in each step we take,
there is freedom. We’ve had freedom at the musical
level, there were some difficult moments, but we’ve
charged ahead, we wanted the title to be indicative
of what we want.
to remain oblivious to outside pressures and expectations”
The Caló language
has a lot to offer in the way of song and record titles,
It’s not as easy as you think, we considered many
different names until finally “Techarí”
began to stick, and then it was impossible to change,
it was just perfect.
The first record, “Vengue”,
had to be recorded, it was a necessity, “Barí”
is the recording that established the name and style
of Ojos de Brujo. “Barí” brought
success, but now with “Techarí”,
was it difficult to find new material, or does it follow
in the line of “Barí”?
M: It’s in the line of “Barí”
as far as artistic honesty and in the sense that we’ve
tried to remain oblivious to outside pressures and expectations.
“Barí” took forever, we really wanted
to start recording but there wasn’t any time,
it was materially impossible, it was non-stop, completely
draining, and we felt the pressure that we had to do
something new, to plant new seeds, but not having any
time caused big problems.
Ramón: The need to do it and
not knowing how, more than knowing we have to do it,
because that was clear, already with “Barí”
there were things we left undone, but the information
overload meant some things were left undone, and the
whole time you’re touring the creative process
is in motion, ideas come up. We began to feel the pressure
of having to do something new, but on the other hand,
the record continues to be new in other places when
we present it, you have to consider that. That’s
why we were doing things the whole time on tour, we
started preliminary recording as we traveled, we took
the computer to the hotel, during rehearsals we started
to put bits and pieces together.
What was the creative process
It happens in different ways, I might think of a verse
and a harmony, and maybe it seems like a rumba, then
we try it with the guitars, then we add the bass…
Or maybe the whole process happens in reverse, Xavi
comes up with something and we work it… There’s
no methodology, it’s all very variable.
R.: Right in the studio we took great advantage of the
time when we went to record, it was hard to get several
days in a row.
M.: We all put our noses to the grindstone, for the
last three years, we each learned how to use pro-tools,
even me, because if not, it was hard to make any progress.
R.: We either made use of the time, or the whole thing
went on forever. We all used the machines.
Creativity is what musicians deal in, for this record
we’d been trying things without even knowing what
they might be good for, then someone comes along and
we record Marina, she makes a verse…things come
out, it’s always flowing. For example, the song
“Respira” came to us in the format of siguiriya,
and the bass worked up a reggae to the compás
of siguiriya….and it was all created that same day
in the studio.
How does that work, siguiriyas
and reggae combined, isn’t it crazy?
R.: This is an experimental project, we’re very
fortunate, here in Ojos de Brujo there are no formulas,
Panko was a bass-player, singer, guitarist, dee-jay,
Xavi lived in India, he plays the tablas, he’s
lived in Cuba, Max knows flamenco ever since “Vengue”,
thanks to us, and his concept of flamenco is very personal,
he programed several of the pieces. The act of opening,
investigating, searching, always working with the colors
of a specific song, just like you might put salt or
pepper on chicken…
Is flamenco still the most
R.: The subsoil of Ojos, if I had to find a definition,
is investigation, but the key is flamenco, with all
the other music I’m talking about. On this investigative
road there are many stopovers.
M.: There are times when any flamenco fan can recognize
siguiriya, but other times it gets lost, but if you
count it out, it’s there. The point isn’t
whether or not it’s flamenco. We start out from
a compás, but there’s also instrumentation,
that’s everything…you mix a reggae bass with
the rhythm kept by the cajón, an anvil in the
background…whoever wants to, can see it, and whoever
doesn’t, doesn’t, but what matters is the
end result. Most of the people who hear it have no idea
what siguiriya is, but the end result is what counts,
it all depends on how you want to hear it.
R.: I’ve repeated again and again, we don’t
do flamenco…there are other people for that who
do it very well, but just like a group looks for a pop
sound, or rock, or funk, and they look for those colors,
the flamenco identity is here, and flamenco isn’t
anyone’s private domain.
M.: What I enjoyed most on this record was the rhythm,
the accents within flamenco compás.
R.: On the song “No Somos Máquinas”
the main idea was basic soleá por bulería,
very slow, an electronic background, looking for a hip-hop
sound in a 12-count, and Marina came up with a delivery
oriented more towards hip-hop but using the 12-count.
Then on our way back from Austria, Paquito had this
idea and in the end we put it to bulerías, which
made it much sweeter and more like a song. Then that
same piece, when we were in Cuba, Roberto began to add
the piano and it took another turn.
again and again, we don’t do flamenco…there
are other people for that who do it very well”
As far as the rest of the
record, “Color” is the first number, so
I assume it’s what we’re going to hear the
M.: That piece has been with us for two years, we play
it live, and we decided to put it first…in a certain
sense, it’s a bit heavy-going maybe, but it’s
very Ojos de Brujo, so in the end we decided to use
it to open the record. It’s been reworked a lot
since it first came into being, with the bass, and in
Havana we added the wind instruments…it’s evolved
What about “Corre Lola”?
M.: It’s a very moving story, and true…we
even had a hard time during the recording, everyone
ended up crying, it’s so real for us. One verse
tells the story of my mother, and so many people we’ve
known, people full of creativity, all that magic has
passed by you, but they don’t end up well, these
are stories about losers and it was emotionally gripping,
not so much because it’s my mother or your father…anyone
can identify with the story…when you universalize
an emotion, you realize how real it is.
Aside from the fact that there are some very personal
references by the composer, the person who interprets
the piece is really the listener. Cultural tradition
draws the guidelines about what’s good and bad,
and the system decides whether you’re a winner
or a loser, but the love and effort an individual invests
is the same for either one. My belief is, it’s
okay to be a loser, to be something, people who lose,
it’s because they’ve played the game, I
prefer to lose rather than not play at all.
Are the lyrics all yours?
M.: Everything I sing except “El Confort no Reconforta”,
which is also Max, and “Todo Tiende”. The
rest is all mine.
“Cultural tradition draws the guidelines about
what’s good and bad, and the system decides whether
you’re a winner or a loser”
In our last interview you spoke about “Barí”,
that you were knocking on a lot of doors. Has that record
opened them all, or are some still closed?
M.: Like the saying “Watch out what you wish for…”,
you knock so hard, and now the doors are open. So what
do you do? We’ve had to turn things down many
times, and very reluctantly, they called us twice for
Australia, Argentina, Brasil… a tour of Indonesia
and India, but it was impossible, if we wanted to record
we just had to make the sacrifice and turn things down,
but it really hurt. The dream of accepting, and the
disappointment of having to say ‘no’.
How are audiences reacting?
R.: The versatility of Ojos de Brujo means we fit perfectly
at any rock, world music, hip-hop or flamenco concert
or festival…all kinds of audiences. In live performance
Ojos de Brujo generates a rapport with people, we have
a good time up on stage and it shows, so it’s
You were the first group
to use multimedia in live performance…
M.: In the beginning it seemed a little crazy, now a
lot of people do it, and it’s always well-received.
It helps a lot when we’re traveling. Andrés
made a lot of our video-clps and worked very hard, I
think it makes for a well-rounded presentation. In a
certain sence it helps give meaning to the songs, I
don’t know, everyone reads a different message,
but it helps all the same.
was released in two formats, CD + CD-ROM and the BOOK-CD
which also includes the CD-ROM. What’s the advantage
of the book and record?
M.: The CD and the CD-ROM are the same in either format,
and the difference is the book, we want to appeal to
those people who like graphics and comics. Each of the
songs was illustrated by someone from a different part
of the world, people we met along the way or found by
Internet…from Japan, the U.S., Caracas, Europe…and
it was implemented simultaneously, these people began
to paint starting from the lyrics, conversations about
the theme, the literary content of the verses, and this
made it all very interesting. In the book you see the
lyrics and the images, then the music illustrates the
images in the book. It seemed like a good idea, and
I love the way it came out.
“We want to appeal
to those people who like graphics and comics. Each of
the songs was illustrated by someone from a different
part of the world”
Imágenes del Libro 'Techarí'
R.: There are three key points: the words take you
as far as they can, then the image takes you a little
further and then the music. For us it’s still
very fresh, I did this experiment with the book and
record, and it’s like being taken on a trip.
M.: And it’s also very “Techarí”,
the line we’re trying to cultivate, it’s
people working with different techniques, managing to
get everything together in the same concept. “Respirar”
is a Manga aesthetic, “El Confort no Reconforta”
we saw in Toulouse, “No Somos Máquinas”,
the boy from Granada is always with us, he’s our
lucky charm and “Sultanas de Merkaíllo”
is from a girl who does collage…there’s also
oil-painting, there’s comics…..
You still take care of your
own management and administration. How can you keep
it up for three years in this day and age with this
system? Sometimes it seems it’s just an image
M.: If only it were true…but it’s not, you
can be sure I’ve got less money than you…
We haven’t stopped working in three years…but
a record isn’t over when the people say so, but
rather when you finish paying off what you owe, and
managing to make it to the U.S. on our own record label,
and the way we did it, is really something.
R.: When they talk about “success” everyone
thinks you put in a little and get a lot out, but we’ve
put in a lot. Eighteen people touring the world costs
a lot of money, it’s not always immediately profitable,
we have to invest to get to a lot of places.
“Our idea is to do
things right, create the need for a product and then
provide that product”
M.: We aren’t looking for the easy route, but
we have a complex infrastructure and everything we make
is invested, we’re all pulling together to make
this work. Our income is from record sales and performances.
R.: Our economic objective is the opposite of any business…our
idea is to do things right, create the need for a product
and then provide that product. You have to consider
that any kind of choice involves sacrifice, but we go
where we want and we do things our own way.
And in this new leg of the
journey, what is Ojos de Brujo going to be like in live
performance? Are you going to concentrate on the pieces
M.: It’s a mega-mix, they’re going to want
to hear the earlier stuff, but we’ll be sticking
in things from “Techarí” little by
little, but also doing the other repertoire, you have
to keep a concert alive. Anyhow, the songs from “Techarí”
aren’t like on the record, everything is always
changing, new elements, and some things that will gradually
Libro + CD + CD Rom
Ojos de Brujo