Let Olas take you on an international journey over the course of nine original songs that span 53 minutes with the CD “La Perla.”

Olas is a Portland-based hive of eight musicians and dancers that are inspired by traditional and modern flamenco, Andalusian and Arabic folk music. They take this influence and meld it with American folk, rock, Arabic and Afro-Cuban sounds and they do it all acoustically with instruments like the cajon (box-shaped percussion instrument), oud (pear-shaped stringed instrument), ney (Middle Eastern end-blown flute), and guitar.

Chriss Sutherland (Cerberus Shoal, Fire on Fire) is the lead vocalist and he also plays guitar, and was one the contributing songwriters for the CD. Sutherland, like the other musicians of Olas, is also on palmas, an essential element of Olas’ music. Palmas is hand percussion with specific kinds of claps at different times during a song and it’s superbly pervasive throughout “La Perla.” Another distinct sound you’ll hear is called zapateado, the percussive footwork of shoe clicking and tapping as performed by Lindsay Bourassa and Megan Keogh.

“La Perla” starts off with “La Luz in mi Vida,” a vivacious song if ever there was one with Sutherland’s fierce vocals. The instrumental “A otro” is next and it’s a delicate composition that takes flight midway through and becomes a sultry dance of palmas and guitar (or is it the oud?). The ney plays a starring role in “Volando Voy,” along with Sutherland’s impassioned tale of a man with a fiery lust for life. “Enamorado de la vida, aunque a veces duele!” (I’m in love with life, although sometimes it hurts).

“Lust for Swords,” is a nine-minute odyssey, this time in English. “I want to explore you, shell, peel, and soil you,” laments Sutherland’s voice, intertwined with a female one. Gorgeous.

Every song on “La Perla” has an almost sacred quality to it. It’s as if these musicians and dancers were doing their thing in some far off land as the night became dawn and someone was there to record it.

“La Perla” is available at Bull Moose and at www.olasmusicanddance or www.peapodrecordings.com.

Aimsel Ponti is a Portland freelance writer. Contact her at:

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