Walking into an Urban Outfitters store in Santa Monica, California in the year 2000, I knew I was in a cool place when a live DJ was spinning tunes in between the first and second floor.
Even cooler was the sound coming from the speakers - the chillout/reggae/ambient/Indian/
banghra/who knows what else sounds of Thievery Corporation.
Returning home a few days later, I quickly, er, "bought" a bunch of their songs online (this was before my conscience kicked in a few years later - I now only buy music on iTunes, honest).
Fast forward 10 years and they've become a top-3 favourite in my books. And in yet another nod to Amsterdam's ever-present entertainment options, I was able to see them live for the first time here at the venerable Melkweg. The room was perfect, with packed balconies and a full floor.
It was an unreal show, with a hugely positive vibe in a crowd of 20- and 30-somethings. Each song brought out a different lead vocalist, from Brazil, the US, Argentina and Jamaica by way of Washington D.C. The live band accompanying the DJs featured top-level musicians playing the trumpet, saxophone, bongos, sitar, bass, and drums. The show kicked off with the sexiest, happiest big mama ever, Sister Pat (photo from the 'Net).
It can be tricky to describe the music since I don't know any comparable groups, so I'll leave it to one of the group's founders at the end of this post to at least describe their philosophy. A Last.fm search for similar artists lists a number of others that are way more obscure.
Basically, it was a cultural and musical experience that dipped me in a vat of coolness from which I have yet to emerge (although friends might suggest otherwise). I HIGHLY recommend picking up some of their songs. Le Monde, Revolution Solution, Le Femme Parallel and Air Batucada should give you a good start, but virtually any song from any album is good. Ditto with a recommendation to see them live wherever you can.
Happy to hear your comments as well...
From Rob Garza:
"We definitely want to contribute to the opening of ears, eyes, and minds. With our live shows it’s a poignant example of music and culture mixing together in an explosive vibrant way. To see a Persian singer singing in Farsi, as America debates on a war with Iran, next to other band members from all corners of the earth singing in Spanish, Portuguese, French and so on, it makes people wonder... and if you can get people to question the things around them, just a little, then that’s not such a bad thing."