Ozomatli

    The city of Los Angeles is nothing short of a cultural phenomenon. Its 12-million-plus populace reflects an impeccable amalgamation of identities and idiosyncrasies, providing a place where spontaneity trumps tradition, and where respect for artistic imagination fuels the insatiable drive of its multifaceted music scene. In essence, the city is the fertile womb of neo-bohemian enlightenment. So it’s only befitting that Grammy Award-winning Ozomatli found their origins in the heart of a city so conducive to creative stretches.

    With an ever-rotating lineup of roughly nine multiethnic members, it’s a daunting and nearly impossible task to label or pinpoint Ozomatli’s genre or category. Having black-Chicano-Cuban-Japanese-Jewish-Filipino influences, the group’s use of sonic accoutrements draws inspiration from a countless number of cultural instruments, including African, Chinese and Arabic. It is Ozomatli’s adeptness at tightening and fusing a broad musical scope that allows any and all backgrounds to stand together – from B-boy to grunge kid to reggae stoner – and pump their fists in the air in a triumphant claim of social importance.

    Despite the fact that Ozomatli constantly explores political themes, they approach such lyrically solemn conflict over ironically feel-good, worldly noise (unlike contemporary rap-rockers Rage Against the Machine). The band wrenches all indignation and righteous anger out of typical socially aware songs and turns it into one huge and exuberant party, charged by eclectic soul and a zest for the brazen. Standing in the audience for an Ozomatli show is the equivalent of being shocked by a friendly jolt of rump-shaking electricity: The bass rolls and rumbles under our soles as the djembe and tabla drums patter and syncopate; unimaginable combinations of salsa, funk and hip-hop are seamlessly welded; until soon, an excited ripple wiggles its way through the crowd from an uncontrollably danceable rhythm (even for those regular nondancers).

    Ozomatli are mysteriously able to capture and channel the densely layered spirit and vitality of their beloved hometown into a massive stage-audience block party, complete with every ounce of high-spirited positivity. Never a band to let vibes dull after performances, the group even tends to perpetuate the merriment by sticking around after gigs to socialize and carouse with fans. With five globe-savvy albums behind them – including 2007’s Don’t Mess With the Dragon, a perfected music-store sweep – there is no telling the places they have still to go, beginning with the firey night stage of our very own Sun God.

    Boss ditties: “”After Party,”” “”Tickle Me!””

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