A debate rages among flamenco purists over whether the flamenco hip-hop of Ojos de Brujo belongs on stage with more traditional artists such as Paco de Lucía or at indie music festivals like South by Southwest, where the group appeared this year. Ojos mixes an array of random styles that hardly seem to go together: traditional flamenco, rumba catalana (the more upbeat, danceable cousin of flamenco), hip-hop, funk, and even beatboxing and scratching. Put these sounds in a blender and what comes out is what the group generally refers to as Jip-Jop Flamenkillo. Ramón, guitarist for the Barcelona collective explains: “I’ve got records from [flamenco singer] Camarón, others from Metallica, Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa–they might not have anything to do with each other but they all influence the music I make.”
Ojos de Brujo is not alone in their attempt to create something new out of the stray sounds and contrasting influences of Barcelona’s streets. The city’s vibrant música mestiza (mixed music) scene includes groups with innovative hybrid styles ranging from the bossa nova/samba/reggae of Brazuca Matraca to the rumba funk of Muchachito Bombo Infierno, whose latest release, Vamos Que Nos Vamos, just came out on the Músicas Nomadas label run by OdB. Although these artists might not share a particular musical formula, they do believe in bringing out Barcelona’s cultural diversity to create a sound that is not limited by genre classifications.
Perhaps the most archetypal example of this could be 08001, a local project started by Julián Urigoitia in the immigrant barrio of Raval. The idea was to bring together a group of musicians as diverse as the neighborhood itself and give them a place to hang out and record their ideas without limiting the outcome. “It’s a project that’s very much open and alive,” says Julián. 08001 fuses multilingual lyrics with everything from flamenco, reggae, rai, and dub with electronic music.
Ojos plans to expand horizons even further on their third album by incorporating tango into the mix. “We base ourselves on experimentation,” says Ramón. “For us, music has an identity apart from whatever genre you happen to be playing. It’s something that tells you ‘Here we are, and this is what’s happening here.’”