Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Ojos de Brujo

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Like the blues in Chicago, flamenco is a big tourist draw in Spain. The difference is that the blues is nearly moribund, played primarily for out-of-towners, whereas flamenco continues to evolve with changing tastes and compete with mainstream pop on the Spanish sales charts. Barcelona's Ojos de Brujo offer an excellent perspective on the current state of the music. On their recent Bari (presently available as an import on La Fabrica de Colores, due for U.S. release in April on World Village), the traditional elements of flamenco--fiery acoustic guitars, dance rhythms pounded out on the cajon (a boxlike wooden drum), and syncopated clapping--collide with propulsive turntable scratching, atmospheric electronic accents, rapping in calo (a Spanish-Romany dialect), and funky full-kit breaks. Fluent in the various flamenco song forms, from tanguillos to bulerias, the six-piece ensemble plays with hot-blooded authority and impeccable chops but refuses to be hemmed in by notions of purity. Vocalist Marina Abad is a precise, expressive pop singer who's able to both draw on the idiom's lusty phrasing and throw down convincing rhymes. A few songs, like "Ventilador R-80," conform to the rumba style made popular here by the Gipsy Kings, but for the most part the band sticks to more syncopated variants, with Abad's voice threading through the herky-jerky percussion like a slaloming skier. Generally (and wisely) the band uses the hip-hop elements sparingly, sometimes merely peppering the songs with programmed beats or razor-sharp cuts by DJ Panko. This is the group's Chicago debut, but they've been generating raves throughout Europe for the past year. DJ Pincha Extra Z is also spinning at the Martyrs' show. Saturday, February 14, 10 PM, Martyrs', 3855 N. Lincoln; 773-404-9494. DJ Panko will be spinning at Sonotheque on Friday, February 13, along with resident maestro Joe Bryl. DJ Panko should go on around 10:30. Sonotheque, 1444 W. Chicago; 312-226-7600.

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