Triloka Records, 2002, 7930185216-2 label website, artist website
The self-titled Ziroq album, just out on the hip Triloka label credits, among others, Paco de Lucia, Tomatito, Vicente Amigo, Charles Benavent, Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana for inspiration.

Flamenco. Santana.

Envision a nouveau Western movie director. He's asking his location manager for a downtrodden Four Corners' desert scene. Hotrodded Harleys have replaced the horses, black leathers stand in for dusters. Rattlers. Peyote. Tequila. Hypnotic rocks. Picturesque cactii. Dust, lots of dust under ominous skies. Wide open minimalist spaces. Gringos intermingling freely with Latinos and Indios. Passionate. Dangerous. Rootsy. Authentic homegrown Gipsy flavor, worlds removed from the mocchachino land of cityslicker poseurs gathering in airconditioned bistros with their shiny ponytails and designer bolos.

Our director couldn't have asked for music more fitting than Ziroq, named after the infamous Mediterranean scirocco. It launches itself from the depth of the Sahara carrying exotic scents and heated intensity in its wake to invade Southern Europe with mood-altering oppression that has people blame irrational behavior on "that blasted wind".

Damn fitting title.

Where Willie & Lobo place their rumba gitana inspired music into Mexico's beach culture to develop a truly novel setting for this popular genre, Ziroq accomplishes an equally successful overhaul, but with an attitude much grittier that edges past road houses rather than cabanas. It trades the former's tropical celebration of carefree living for a darker, moodier atmosphere. More somber, yet suffused with a barely restrained wildness that's already in lead singer and guitarist Marcus Nand's hoarse and rusty pipes, in the twisted yet haunting effects opening the instrumental title track with Shahla Sarehchani's sorceress vocals, the slightly off-tune violin of J'anna Jacoby, the blunt lyrics of "Contando Cacahuetes" that begin with "I get blisters on my fingers, I don't sleep working late, on the radio I only get the news in brief working late..."

The guitar as the quintessential Gipsy symbol serves as only a very minor element of Ziroq despite the highbrow references of contemporary Flamenco greats in the liner notes. The group isn't concerned about emulating a faraway culture. They're firmly grounded in their very own. The gitano spirit's here, alive and undiluted, simply donning different outergarb befitting different environs. This is in stark contrast with unfortunate current practices that see guitarists technically challenged to perform authentic Flamenco loose their battle before sunrise. They're attempting to compete with GItanos that grew up in Spain's barrios rocking the crib to the intricate compas of Flamenco and attending nightlong juergas from the time they could walk.

Ziroq's vocals -- only three of the eleven tracks are purely instrumental -- are sung alternately in English and Spanish. Palmas hand claps intermingle with drum kit, driven bass guitar lines, hammond organ and synth scapes. Violin scrapes break through gloomy clouds like jagged lightning. Sparse solo guitar offsets against the densely populated rhythm section.

This debut album's a very potent entry into the Gitano genre, for sun-darkened folks who like their Mescal with the li'l worm and rather spend greasy hours underneath their ride fixing it themselves than reading outdated magazines at the dealership waiting for the call from the service department. Perhaps it's no coincidence that this group elected to launch on Triloka. This label already gave us Jai Uttal and the Pagan Love Orchestra. These folks have a charmed touch to pick ruggedly individualistic performers of real substance for their growing artist stable. Ziroq is a wonderful new addition, and this listener already looks forward to their follow-up release.

Cheers. Here's to blazing your trails and raising your own scirocco as powerfully as Ziroq!