Meaning ‘Hi’ in Uruguayan slang, Opa are a South American phenomenon. Fusing Uruguay’s native Candombe rhythms with North American jazz and pop music, Opa’s space-age synthesizers, boisterous grooves and compositional magic expressed a distinctive Afro-Uruguayan voice within the global jazz vernacular: a voice which remains as vital and unique today as when it was first recorded, almost half a century ago.
Before forming the band, brothers Hugo Fattoruso and Osvaldo Fattoruso had already become expert musicians in their native Uruguay’s Candombe tradition - not to mention their fruitful career as Los Shakers - South America’s most successful Beatles-styled beat group. At the dawn of the seventies, while living and working in New York, Hugo and Osvaldo joined forces with bassist Ringo Theilmann and Opa was born.
Opa’s first official release Goldenwings, released by Milestone Records in 1976 and produced by Airto Moreira, featured the genius compositions and brilliant keyboard work of Hugo Fattoruso, who utilised Fender Rhodes, Moog, Arp and Oberheim synthesizers to create progressive, futuristic textures - not dissimilar to Opa’s Brazilian label mates Azymuth. Tracks included, “Tombo”, “Corre Niña” and of course the title track, which would become a firm favourite amongst jazz-funk DJs and aficionados on the international acid-jazz scene of the nineties. On Magic Time, released in 1977, Opa were also joined by fellow Uruguyan legend Ruben Rada and Brazilian vocalist Flora Purim. Continuing their expansive latin jazz fusion explorations, Magic Time included tracks like “Camino” and their stunning tribute to their home city: “Montevideo”.
Before their first release, Opa had been heard playing in a nightclub by producer and label owner Larry Rosen (Arista GRP). Rosen got the band in the studio to record an album’s worth of demos, which mysteriously remained unreleased until 1996. Back Home featured the first recordings of some of Opas most beloved tracks, as well as a handful which had never been heard before. The album is home to some Opa’s hardest hitting funk jams, with moments of songwriting wonderment: somewhere in between the soulful pop and rock progressions of Los Shakers; and the prodigious jazz-funk fusion Opa would become known for.
Opa have collaborated with North American titans including bassist Ron Carter, producer Creed Taylor and Brazilian icons Airto Moreira, Flora Purim, Hermeto Pascoal and Milton Nascimento. In more recent years Opa’s music has found new audiences after being sampled by Captain Murphy (aka Flying Lotus) and Madlib.