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Ocote Soul Sounds: The Ocote Way

By Published: December 30, 2009
After Grupo's set, I introduced the two, and Quesada returned Anonymous' elation with the admission that he could probably still play guitar to every Dead Milkemen song, himself a reformed skateboarding, trouble making punk rocker. What struck me most about this moment was the sort of inter-generational conversation that was going on: a punk rock icon praising a musician who is himself a child of the punk rock and hip hop movements for playing music that his father enjoyed. Again, looking to the past to make music for the future. The Ocote Way.

Ocote Soul Sounds

"Beyond digging deeper and straying from the obvious stuff that everyone is doing and listening to, what punk rock, and bands like the Dead Milkmen, showed me and my skate punk friends was the do-it-yourself approach," Quesada explains. "I remember looking at album covers and realizing these guys had done this themselves, literally drawn the covers by hand. And the albums sounded shitty, I mean comparatively they just didn't have the same budget. What I took away from those years and that music was really taking it upon yourself to make things happen. Keeping that attitude. And also really the rawness, the rawness of that music—aesthetically the music was raw and had energy and all that stuff that's fun when you're young and causing trouble."

"I think there are definitely a lot of our peers who are inspired by 60s and 70s aesthetics, from Dap Kings to El Michels to Grupo Fantasma and Brownout, to the West Coast guys like Connie Price, the Lions, Orgone," Perna adds. "A lot of us grew up in the late '80s, early '90s on hip hop that was completely built on a lot of this old funk music. For me, that's what I liked most about the hip hop—it was always much less about the lyricism for me (with a few exceptions) and more about the beats. It was in X-Clan that I heard Fela Kuti for the first time. It was the saxophone hook in Pete Rocks "Troy" that made me want to play saxophone. When I started digging for records and buying mixtapes with the original music, I forgot about hip hop altogether. By that time sampling laws had changed anyway and a lot of hip hop's connection with music of the past was severed."

Artists like Fela Anikulapo-Kuti

Fela Anikulapo-Kuti
Fela Anikulapo-Kuti
1938 - 1997
, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Sun Ra
Sun Ra
Sun Ra
1914 - 1993
and Parliament/Funkadelic were the freaks and weirdoes of their era, much like the Rodney Anonymous' and Flavor Flav's of Perna and Quesada's adolescence. As music fans, something always draws us to artists who seem a little odd, the tortured genius or eccentric entertainer. "The Return of the Freak" as Perna puts it.

In addition to the punk rock aesthetic of Quesada, and the mutual love and admiration of the golden era late '80s hip-hop, Ocote's sound is peppered with the chants and percussion of Yoruban religion. "A lot of the chanting that you hear on songs like 'Pan, Chamba y Techo' and 'Coconut Rock' comes from Perna's background in Yoruba. The origins of some of the vocals is obviously African, Yoruban, but the influence actually comes from 70s bands like Mandrill, bands that didn't have a lead singer, they just had a bunch of dudes who sang."

The Future

With a solid band in place for the first time, Quesada must now find time to balance the ever-hectic schedule of Grupo Fantasma and Brownout with the touring demands of Ocote Soul Sounds.

Ocote Soul Sounds"More and more I lean towards staying home and making records but it's hard these days, especially with bands the size of Grupo and Ocote, to make any money. You just have to play and play a lot," Quesada says. "For me personally I like the fact that Grupo Fantasma and Ocote can kinda divide and conquer and play different parts of the country. Now there's an Ocote band and it's great 'cause we don't have to defer to any other band and its schedule. The band is growing in confidence and developing its own sound."

No doubt, Coconut Rock is documentation of a band finally comfortable in its own skin, finally acknowledging its status as a "real band," no longer a pet project of two staggeringly talented musicians with too many ideas in their heads and not enough outlets to explore them.

"Every musician who gets to a certain point in his/her journey begins to confront questions of identity, roots and core values," Perna reflects. "I think that is where we are right now with the music. It is a challenge to try to articulate where we are at, where we are from, and were we want to go in our own words."

Ocote Soul Sounds, Coconut Rock (ESL, 2009)
Ocote Soul Sounds, The Alchemist Manifesto (ESL, 2007)

Ocote Soul Sounds, El Niño y El Sol (ESL, 2005)

Photo Credits

Courtesy of Ocote Soul Sounds

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