Ozomatli is a Latin rock band that comprises of seven to ten pieces, and is best recognized for its Latin, rock and hip hop styles. Formed in Los Angeles in 1995, the group gained prominence for both, their broad array of music styles incorporating elements of rap, reggae, funk, jazz and salsa, as well as their vocal activist perspectives. In their 2007 interview, group members Ullises Bella and Jiro Yamaguchi described their music as the crazy mix of funk, hip, hop, meringue, cumbia and salsa music coming from various cars on Sunset Boulevard; all the sound covered between the cacophony of these songs is what captures Ozomatli. Currently, the band comprises of drummer Mario Calire, percussionist and background vocalist Jiro Yamaguchi, saxophonist/background vocalist/ keyboardist Ulises Bella, pianist/ lead vocalist Asdrubal Sierra, rap vocalist and percussionist Justin El Nino Poree, vocalist Raul Pacheco and bassist Wil-Dop Abers. They have released five studio albums to date including Fire Away, Don’t Mess with a Dragon, Street Signs, Embrace the Chaos and Ozomatli. They have also issued a live album titled Live at the Fillmore and a couple of EP called Ya Llego and Coming Up. Other contributions made by the band include Eklektikos Live, Piranha 3D, and Change Is Now. Ozomatli tickets are the raging topic of town talk among Latin music lovers, who enjoy the sound in its most raw, live performance.
The title of Ozomatli comes from the language of Nahuatl, in which the word stands to represent an Aztec astrological symbol for monkey that is also supposed to be the god of fire, dance, music and new harvest. The band has gone through many changes in its lineup, having to replace as many as ten of its musicians with a minimum of seven. The six members that have been present since the group’s inception include Asdru Sierra, Raul Pacheco, Justin Poree, Wil-dog Abers, Jiro Yamaguchi, and Ulises Bella. The group members came across each other through their affiliation with Los Angeles’ Peace and Justice Center, performing their first show for picketers while they were on strike. The group started their career in the border area club of San Diego and Los Angeles, adding sax player Jose Espinosa, drummer William Marrufo, turtablist Cut Chemist and MC Chali 2na along the way.
Ozomatli’s first effort in recording music came in the form of their EP called Ya Llego, which they release independently on a four-track CD. All of its four songs reappeared later on their self-titled debut album. After making an appearance in Vibe magazine, they finally came to the front of Latin music and issued their eponymous debut album under Almo Sound label in 1998. Between their debut and second album, they underwent several changes in their lineup, with four members quitting the group. First they had to add drummer Andy Mendoza who was to replace William Marrufo, following which they had to replace DJ Cut Chemist with Kid.W.I.K. While still working on their second album, they had three more band members leave them. This album was issued on eleventh September, 2001, when most American bands cancelled their performances. Ozomatli continued to perform, gaining recognition for it, while they also continued their efforts in progressive politics and social justice.
Ozomatli won a Grammy Award in 2002, in the category of Best Alternative/Latin Rock album, shortly after which they performed at the year’s award winning music festival known as The Berkshire Mountain Music Festival. The band has appeared on several high profile TV shows including Late Night with Conan Brien, Dancing with the Stars, and Austin City Limits, among others. They have established a reputation for actively performing and touring around the world, and have played concerts in India, Nepal, Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, South Australia, and China. They have appeared in many festivals such as New Orleans Heritage and Jazz Festival, High Sierra Music Festival, Yue (a Chinese festival), South by South music festival in Texas, Coachella and many more. This is a band whose live shows are a must-see at least once, so get hold of some Ozomatli tickets and be there to experience their one of a kind.
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