Part of Dec 2011 by

Ocote Soul Sounds Concert and Ticket Giveaway, Albuquerque

While Antibalas was reigniting the underlying fire of the Afrobeat scene,Grupo Fantasma and Brownout! were making Latin grooves awesome again; so when the respective leaders of those bands,Martín Perna (Antibalas) and Adrian Quesada (Grupo Fantasma, Brownout!) teamed up with Ocote Soul Sounds, it was no surprise that something very amazing was about to happen.

Lush tapestries of horns and percussion groove on an astral plane as Ocote Soul Sounds seamlessly integrates various aspects of hip hop, jazz, psychedelic, funk, Latin and Afro-Cuban music into organically cohesive songs. Ocote Soul Sounds’ four LPs play like snapshots of their constant state of [r]evolution; their latest, Taurus, also happens to be their absolute best.

AdobeAirstream chatted with Perna, as Ocote Soul Sounds prepared to head northwest from Austin to kickstart their tour of the western United States in Albuquerque at Low Spirits tonight. It is a show that should not be missed.

A2: Congratulations on your successful Kickstarter campaign! What was the crowd-funding experience like for you?

MP: We had committed to doing a tour but the guarantees barely even covered the cost of a van and hotels. We couldn’t afford to go into debt, and we couldn’t ask eight musicians to go out on the road and play for free, especially since we have families to support. We put the word out to our friends, fans, and families — and folks came through in a big way. We raised $9,200 (114% of our fundraising goal), which will help defray costs of the tour, pay for musicians, and keep up the momentum for future touring efforts.

The crowd-funding model is great because it provides an opportunity for supporters of the band to make a deeper, more significant investment in the band beyond buying a CD or a ticket to the show, and brings the band closer to the fans. It allows for bands to embark upon projects that they themselves may not have the money or economic support for. We’re on a label, but it’s an independent and they don’t have a big enough budget to offer tour support; so using Kickstarter was a good option.

A2: What were some of your motivations for having Ocote Soul Sounds evolve into a full-fledged touring band?

MP: The main motivation is love of the music and the necessity to share it live with folks outside of Austin. We decided after making Taurus, that we should hit the road and play the music live with the full band. We had toured for a few weeks in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic after our third album, Coconut Rock, opening for Thievery Corporation and headlining some smaller shows ourselves. Touring is very very expensive and financially often a losing proposition and it’s not a sacrifice that we could make in the past. It is still definitely a labor of love — all of us our turning down much higher paying and higher profile gigs to do this. I had to find a sub to fill my spot playing in the VH1 Soul Divas awards with Erykah Badu, Sharon Jones, Jill Scott, Jennifer Hudson, the Roots, and the Antibalas horns to do this, so that should tell you how committed I am to making this tour happen.

A2: What prompted you to work with an outside producer on Taurus? In what ways did Eric Hilton’s role as producer contribute to and/or influence the recordings?

MP: It was an experiment when we decided to work with Eric Hilton. We’ve been on his label ESL Music now for 5 years and after Ocote toured with Thievery for a bit in 2009 and 2010, we began conversations about working together on the next album. We had all the songs written and started down in Austin Texas, then came up to Washington DC for two periods of about 10 days each in May and July of 2010 to finish the album. Eric helped coach us along and get the best performances out of us; he has a great ear for drums and bass, in particular, which helped the record sound good. He also helped us make some difficult decisions regarding the editing of the songs and which songs made the album, which was very helpful.
A2: Can you discuss the role that politics play in your songwriting process?

MP: All music is political, even if it is instrumental. Britney Spears’s music, for example, is highly political in that she makes a conscious choice to reinforce the consumerist status quo. Nelly’s music is highly political in that he chooses to reinforce patriarchy, misogyny, and forms of identity and expression that conform with society’s perceptions of young Black males. In writing the lyrics, I try to speak to what I know, what I see, what I feel. It only appears overtly political because most of what we see on TV and hear on the radio reinforces the status quo and doesn’t make people think about any alternative possibilities, ways of seeing or living, and ways of countering dominant narratives that tell us how life is and how it should be. There are a lot of songs that have marinated for a long time before we recorded them — a lot of them I just wrote for guitar years ago while living in Mexico and little by little have gotten around arranging for an eight piece band. Some of the songs are more metaphorical, while others are more direct; but I think all of them collectively form part of a counter-narrative to what’s going on. While some of the songs are topical, we try to tie them in with timeless themes. “Pan y Circo” for example is a critique of the sports industry, but takes its name from the Roman term “Pane et Circenses” — which refers to the political strategy of pacifying and controlling the masses with bread and circuses. I grew up playing sports from age 5 through my first year of college and am intimately aware of how sports have been corrupted and poisoned. The song’s relevance has been supported by various things that are happening right now, such as the massive state violence in Rio de Janeiro as thousands of favela-dwellers are displaced to make room for the Olympics and World Cup, or the impunity and cover-up in the child sex abuse scandals in the Penn State football.

AdobeAirstream is giving away two tickets for Ocote Soul Sounds concert in Albuquerque. Go to our Facebook page for more information.

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