Ocote Soul Sounds
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Ocote Soul Sounds

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"Coconut Rock"

Teaming Martín Perna from the New York Afrobeat collective Antibalas and Adrian Quesada of Austin's latin funk orchestra Grupo Fantasma, this kaleidoscopic gem splits the difference between the two bands in dazzling style. "The Revolt of the Cockroach Peoples" blends chugging baritone sax, tough grooves, and swirling flute, "Tu Fin, Mi Comienzo" ("Your End, My Beginning") sets cheesy organ licks to a pumping rock-steady beat, and "Vendendo Saude e Fe" ("Selling Wealth and Faith") is a creamy ballad featuring fuzzed-out guitar and the Brazilian chanteuse Tita Lima. Coconut Rock feels more like a compilation than a cohesive album, but the variety just adds to the fun. - Mother Jones


"Ocote Soul Sounds: Modern Latin Folklore"

KUT, July 31, 2008 - Sometimes bad luck can turn out to be a good thing.

In late 2004, Brooklyn-based musician Martin Perna set out on a biofueled trip to Mexico. But the founder of the Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra didn't quite get there; his car broke down in Austin, Tex.

Luckily, he was far from stranded. Adrian Quesada, a member of Austin's Grupo Fantasma, took Perna in. Jam sessions over the next few weeks resulted in inspiration for a new album — and a new group — under the name Ocote Soul Sounds.

The chemistry between Quesada and Perna worked so well that the duo has returned with a new album, this one called The Alchemist Manifesto. Perna spoke to Latino USA host Maria Hinojosa about the new project.

It's one of many hats Perna wears. He's an in-demand session musician who has recorded with TV on the Radio, Celebration and Scarlett Johansson. With Antibalas, he makes a brassy, raucous, big-band sort of music. But Ocote Soul Sounds is yet another identity: a downtempo blend of relaxed Latin grooves.

The word Ocote, taken from the Aztec language Nahuatl, refers to a Mexican pine tree. It's key to how Perna views the project.

"One of the things that's magical about the ocote is that, as you're probably familiar, you can go to a market and buy little bundles of it," Perna says. "And that's the kind of wood that you use to get the fire started. ... And the ocote can even be used to get wet logs, or logs that don't want to burn — it can get those logs to burn. So there's this idea of nature, the hardwood of this pine tree getting the fire started."

The Nahuatl reference takes on a special significance. Perna says that he and Quesada are trying to draw from both Mexican roots and their current environments in an authentic way.

"So a lot of the songs we make are border sounds," Perna says. "They're in between the space between the modern world, the folkloric world; technology and roots sounds. And we're just trying to make sense of it. So each record that we make is us reconciling this moment in the present."

Take the song "El Pescador," which combines a Yoruba chant with hip-hop drums.

"The beat underlying it is that — you know, just because we're in a modern era where hip-hop is dominating the airwaves, and just these big beats underneath, that we can't sever our connection with the old songs of the past, and the Orishas," Perna says. "I think different people in this day and age are successfully linking those traditions, and we're a part of it in that way."

The well-traveled Perna also spoke his mind on the future of Latino unity in the U.S.

"Before, I think, Latinos can really move forward in the United States to a degree of true success, true happiness, we have a lot of baggage and politics to work out amongst ourselves," he says. "And to realize that we're bound by a history of colonialism, of slavery, of conquest, but we're united by things that are even more transcendental." - National Public Radio (www.npr.org)


Discography

"Coconut Rock" 2009 ESL Music
"The Alchemist Manifesto" 2008 ESL Music
"El Niño y El Sol" ESL Music 2006
Divinorum/Look Sharp 7" Fruitmeat/Giant Step 2003

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Bio

Adrian Quesada and Martin Perna, respective bandleaders of famed ensembles Grupo Fantasma and Antibalas, once again unite under the Ocote Soul Sounds banner for their new long player, ‘Coconut Rock’.

The third album to be released by Ocote Soul Sounds seamlessly entwines the grit and funk of the gridlocked NYC streets, with the voices and rhythms of the dusty lanes of Latin America.

This time around finds the duo loosened up and slipping effortlessly into their trademark psychedelic afro-latin funk groove. From the Latin breakbeat rhythms of album lead-off ‘The Revolt of the Cockroach People’ to the cumbia bounce of ‘Tu Fin, Mi Comienzo’ to the easy guitar soundscapes of ‘Vendendo Saude e Fe’ featuring Brazilian songstress Tita Lima, ‘Coconut Rock’ is the third chapter in Ocote Soul Sounds’ unparalleled journey through sonic realms beyond!

The duo of Perna and Quesada developed their musical paths in eerily similar parallel universes. Though Quesada grew up in the Texas border-town of Laredo, and Perna came up in Philadelphia (later New York), both musicians straddled borders literally and artistically. Growing up on hip hop and the jazz and funk it was built on; both taught themselves to play multiple instruments; both had founded game-changing, booty-shaking big bands; and both were deeply moved by a powerful spirit of social and political activism, the spirit that was to become Ocote.

A chance biodiesel breakdown, which left Martin stranded in Austin, led to the two playing around with some song ideas together, hitting the studio and ultimately resulted in their 2005 debut ‘El Nino Y El Sol’. Four years and three albums down the line, they have evolved into a seven-piece live outfit and continue to draw inspiration from a number of unusual sources: Cuban children’s rhymes about the boogyman providing the basis for ‘El Diablo Y El Ñau Ñau’, while ‘Prince of Peace’ is all about “a messiah coming back to town looking like Sun Ra, with this giant raucous marching band strutting down the streets”…quite!