Saturday, December 02, 2006

Bewichment !

Friday night was one that I'd been looking forward to for many months. A trip to Warwick Arts Centre, for Clare and Owain to meet up with Kath and Anto for a concert by a group of Barcelona musicians known as Ojos de Brujo (eye of the witch, in Spanish). Their music is Flamenco, but employs techno, funk, hip hop, rap, reggae, and banghra rhythms in a fusion of the most original and exciting kind. When Anto and I went to Granada for a guitar course two years ago, we were curious about contemporary developments in Spanish popular music, but had not time to go clubbing and explore what was there. The CDs on sale at El Corte Ingles gave us little clue from the covers about their content. In the end it was a salesman with good English at Malaga airport who recommended we try the group's first album 'Bari'. Then earlier this year I came across their second album 'Techari' in a shop in town. Both have been played more than any others in my collection. As soon as their English tour dates were announced, Anto booked tickets and it turned into a family outing!

It was remarkable to witness a high energy live performance that was so faithful to their recordings and yet added new dimensions of improvisation and interaction. Three percussionists, three guitarists, a deejay, a flamenco dancer and the fireball of a lead singer played for over ninety minutes with only a short break. The entire show was accompanied by some extraordinary art video footage mixed in with live video of the performance in a powerfully evocative manner. The group members weren't all youngers, but mostly thirty somethings or older, and their way of working, and the social vision articulated in their music and visual art was definitely the sort of stuff that frightened Franco into making war on his own people. Call it Catalonian radicalism if you like - it was strong on contemporary social justice issues, and not merely exploiting the revolutionary past of the region. Last year they toured Cuba, and worked live with Havana brass musicians, and the state dance company, at the famous Karl Marx auditorium. Their second album includes a photo/video CD narrating this encounter.

They had been on stage no more than five minutes before the group's leaders were inviting people to get up out of their seats and dance in the area cleared at the foot of the stage. First the younger, then older elements of the audience, moved, eventually including most of the Kimber contingent. It was irresistible. Given the stress of the drive to Warwick after a busy morning, and the (as yet unresolved) problem of my high blood pressure, I was a little apprehensive. But as I danced away and clapped the compas wildly (and probably inaccurately), it was as if the stress all melted away, leaving me with the sensation that my blood pressure had gone down rather than up with all this musical excitement. The joy of the moment opened my heart in praise to God. Not that any of this was the kind of sacred music that would delight erstwhile followers of the generalissimo. There's just something about human beings celebrating their creative freedom to the full that to me is holy, a divine blessing, especially in the place where cultures mix and fertilise each other. For me it was a true holiday of the spirit. We whizzed home by one in the morning, and sleep was sweet as heaven.

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