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Watussi - Pieces Of Eight

Author: Jane Stabler
Thursday, 25 October 2007
We’re in danger of using up our forward slashes here… Colombian-born Oscar Jiminez, singer/songwriter/frontman/casanova from Bondi-based latin funk/rock/hip hop band Watussi, has a chat/talk/yak with 3D’s Jane Stabler…

Oscar Jiminez admits he is responsible for bringing a lot of the Latin influences to the band. “I have to say I really push for a lot of Latin, but I also really push for something new. The band, they don’t see it from the Latin point of view. One is strong on funk, one’s strong on rock, and that’s what I want. I don’t want Watussi to be stereotyped, we really want to explore and push it to something else, with new boundaries. It’s important that an artist gets their own identity and I feel like that’s where we are now. Our sound is getting clear, it sounds new, it sounds fresh and that’s great. I hope that people respond in a very positive way.”

So far, people definitely have. Watussi is one of Sydney’s most popular live bands, and the group has gained a reputation for their energetic on-stage antics. In today’s music scene full of stand alone pop artists, an eight-piece fusion band is a bit of a rarity, but it only makes sense that such a unique sound would come from such a unique group of people.

Watussi encompasses musicians who are as dedicated to their own projects as they are to the band, which Jimenez believes is why it works so well. “Each person has their own projects and the thing that brings us together is the music and the mix of ideas. I think if people can see the unity of the band and the chemistry, that tells you a lot about the music, about what’s happening. A band is like a family and most importantly what keeps us together is to really enjoy what we’re doing on stage, to do it for the love of it. I really enjoy playing with every single person in the band. At this point where we are now, I’m just very happy with where we are. We all have the same goal.”

This mutual goal has culminated in the recent release of Watussi’s much anticipated debut album Tequila Sangre y Fuego, which translates to ‘tequila, blood and fire’. The album is also a reflection of what is at the heart of the band, in particular their on-stage energy. “Really the name came as we were finishing the tracks for the album.” Jimenez explains. “We had a couple of ideas; we had the idea of Charlie Feugo but we thought that sounded like an artist. The idea came later and we really liked it, it really is the three elements that really describe the band. We always have tequila on stage, the blood represents our background and what we’re about, and the fire represents what we try to do on stage.”

The album is as multicultural as it is funky, fusing Spanish, English and French lyrics, which is a big hit with the ladies. Jimenez laughs as he recalls times the band have had underwear amongst other things thrown at them on stage. “They love the guitarist, and the percussionist, but not me, and the first time it happened we were all like ‘What was that--’ It’s funny because sometimes the lyrics aren’t even talking about anything, but Spanish is so sexy! It’s funny because we have a big feminine market that follows us, and that’s not being rejected at all by any member of the band. It’s a big tour motivation!”

But it isn’t just the ladies that love this large ensemble, and the band is expecting a big night when the album launches in Sydney. “We’re really looking forward to the launch.” Jimenez enthuses. “We’re preparing a bigger show, we have a couple of guests coming in, improvising, but that’s the great thing with Watussi. We always like to improvise. Every night should be different. People deserve to see something different every time, something authentic each night. It leaves people with a sense of belonging if they’ve seen something unique.”

Although the group are certainly unique, there is no denying that Latin influences have gained popularity during recent times. You only need consider the number of Latin and salsa dance classes that continue to spring up in bars all over town to prove as much, and Jimenez admits that the Latin explosion has helped open Watussi up to a broader audience base. “I guess that every single thing that’s happening really adds to our audience. If people are listing to Latin bands it really helps us because people then get interested to see us as well.

“The Latin scene has really grown,” he continues, “and so has the mix of Latin with the rest of the world. Latin musicians are really open to rock, and what’s happing in electronic music and they’ve been exploring that for years. World music has endless possibilities. The push of Latin, not only Latin but African as well, and people getting interested in something different, not just the same old thing. People need to be open to seeing something new, and discovering other cultures through art is a beautiful thing.”

The future for Watussi certainly looks to be a beautiful, albeit busy one. “We started as a five-piece, now we’re an eight-piece, and we will go bigger.” their frontman predicts. “There’s always space for new sounds, to not just represent Latin culture but the world culture. We’re looking to evolve every time with different sounds, and to create something new.”

WHO: Watussi
WHAT: Tequila Sangre y Fuego through Knowfool/Inertia / album launch at Art Factory
WHEN: Out now / Thursday 15 November