• The Non Stop LA/Mexico/Jamaica Ozomatli conversation

    By Dr. Alan Carlos Hernandez on March 30, 2017

    HOLLYWOOD (Herald de Paris) —  Since its inception in 1995, innovation and creativity have defined Ozomatli. Hailing from Los Angeles, the group found a way to represent the city’s eclectic culture through music that appeals to the local community and the world beyond. Ozomatli’s success is exemplified in an impressive variety of genres, from classic to modern Latino, urban, hip-hop and other world styles. The “Dioses del Baile,” or “Gods of Dance,” have created one of the most exciting, captivating and flat-out fun live shows touring today. They continue to harness their musical instincts by conceiving new concepts and forging new sounds that keep fans on their toes and the world dancing.

    The band is currently in the studio working on their latest recording, “NONSTOP LA MEXICO KINGSTON,” an album of classic Mexican hits re-imagined with a reggae feel. This record will pay homage to the band’s Latin roots, allowing them to personalize songs that defined their youth and in turn, become part of Latin and Pop music lore. Produced by drum & bass reggae legends, Sly & Robbie (Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff, Madonna, No Doubt) and featuring various high profile guest vocalists, the album recreates the magic of classic Latin hits, with a reggae dance hall vibe that only Ozomatli could make feel as natural as waves rolling in the Caribbean sands.

    Prior to paying respects to the classic Latin catalogue, Ozomatli was creating its own repertoire adored by fans and critics alike. The band catapulted to the top of the live music scene with their first eponymously titled album. The impact of the then 10-piece band’s album was felt throughout the music world, and earned them the opportunity to open for Carlos Santana on his Supernatural tour. Following the success of its first album and touring with Santana and Mana, Ozomatli released its sophomore album, Embrace the Chaos, which garnered a Grammy award for Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album. The follow up album, Street Signs, won both the same award and the Latin Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album in 2005.

    Ozomatli takes firm stances on various social justice issues. Their work focuses on giving voice to Latino culture, opportunity to children, fighting for workers’ rights, and promoting global unity and peace amongst people, cultures and nations. Ozomatli were named Cultural Ambassadors for the U.S. State Department in 2006, were the first musical group to speak at the TED Conference in San Francisco, and performed for President and First Lady Obama at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s 32nd Annual Award Gala.

    In addition to politics and social issues, Ozomatli emphasizes the importance of family and children. The band strives to make music to be shared through the generations and have even recorded music specifically targeted towards children and families. Their 2012 release, Ozomatli Presents OzoKidz, features all original children’s music that captures the innovation and liveliness that Ozo fans have become accustomed to, while educating children on the values of nature and knowledge. The band continues to perform the album at special OzoKidz concerts, where parents and children alike dance and play along on OzoKidz kazoos.

    With “NONSTOP LA MEXICO KINGSTON” Ozomatli continues creating music for entire families and communities. By recreating these classic Latin songs, Ozo redefines their meaning and re-imagines their beauty for generations to come. As Ozomatli percussionist and MC, Justin Poree, puts it, “Anyone who is eight or 80 will recognize “Sabor a Mi” or “Besame Mucho.” The band has been sprinkling some of these songs into their recent live shows, and the crowds have not been able to hold back from coming together to sing along with “Como La Flor” or “Tragos Amargos.” These rhythmically and melodically rich songs bridge the generational gap, captivate all who listen, and beautifully mesh a variety of rich cultures.

    Raul Pacheco is guitarist and composer with the worldly jam band, Ozomatli. Over the years Ozomatli has synthesized multicultural sounds from their Los Angeles hometown, pulling together the strands of creativity into a unique rhythmic machine. Pacheco plays an active roll in the bands evolution and also makes his own music with an eye and ear to the urban streets of the Latin world. Full of high-energy, poignant lyrics, and association to all worlds of music, Pacheco is a unique worldly artist at the forefront of assimilation in music, politics and social activism.

    Herald de Paris, Consulting Editor Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez had a one on one with Raul.

    AC: What does Ozomatli mean, who came up with the name – why?

    RP: Ozomatli is the Nahuatl word for monkey and Nahuatl was the language used by the Aztecs. Ozomatli is a character on the Aztec calendar and is considered a deity of dance and the orchestrator of the jungle. Our mission has always been to make people dance and we are from Los Angeles, a modern jungle.

    AC: Who are the founding members of the band, how did you all come together, what was the musical vision?

    RP: All current members are founders, there are others but they moved on. We came together to support a group of workers that were on strike, we charged money at home made shows to support a community youth center in downtown Los Angeles.

    AC: How was the artistic and political climate different when you started in 1995, does the Social and Political climate of the times inform your music?

    RP: I think the general political climate is similar, the haves versus the have nots is always the story. We were very inspired by the Zapatista movement out of Chiapas, Mexico. Now we are inspired by everything anti-Trump.

    AC: Your music is a combination of Latino, urban, hip-hop and other world styles. Who are some of the artists that have influenced your musical palate, do you think you are now an influence on newer artists coming up?

    RP: Each of us have love for many different musical artists and traditions, from Coltrane to The Clash, from Pakistani Qawwali to Mexican Jarocho, from The Velvet Underground to Black Sabbath, from Michael Jackson to The Carpenters. I think what we did when we first came out was unique and it has influenced others just like we were influenced by others, the cycles continue.

    AC: How were you received when you first started out? Was it hard to get gigs because they couldn’t put you into a musical bag?

    RP: People loved us because we rocked the crowd. I think we have an old school hip-hop party vibe tradition that requires you make the people move, that got us gigs in may different settings and with many different crowds. Beyond that, categories seem to be important.

    AC: I know LA got you, what happened when you started working out of town?

    RP: Most people appreciate what we do, but some don’t. Being called wetbacks, told to get your green card and having bottles thrown at you have been rare occurrences. We don’t expect everybody to get us, but our mission has always been to show off our skills and musical force.

    AC: When did you know you were going to “make it?’ How did it feel, how did you react the first time you heard one of your tunes on the radio?

    RP: “Making it” is a strange phrase. To this day I don’t feel like I fully made it, there is always room for growth. But if having a job playing music for twenty two years as my primary source of income is making it then I felt it when I quit my day job. Looking back I think the first commercial radio play we received was on an alternative rock station in Los Angeles called KROQ. To this day they are influential. It felt good that they played a spanning language song all summer long, I think it was a first for them.

    AC: The band really doesn’t have a leader or a definitive spokesperson, what is the structure of the band, is it a collective?

    RP: It is a collective, we all have specialties and we work accordingly. Some are better at interviews, some are better at recording, etc. We share the work and success.

    AC: Tell us about your Live Shows, what goes on? Music critics believe you have one of the best live shows in the business.

    RP: Our live shows are the reason we are still a band. Every band needs a reason to play and turning people on with music was why we picked up our instruments in the first place. Who knows why music touched us, we want to share that feeling. WE generally give our emotional all on stage and that’s what people see and feel.

    AC: How did it come about that you had a chance to open for Santana, do you feel it was a turning point in the bands popularity – How?

    RP: I believe Carlos Santana’s kid Salvador got a hold of our first self-made EP and turned his dad on to it. Carlos called our booking agent himself and requested we open up at the local indoor stadium for him. Well, we were all moved and excited. He was the coolest cat that demonstrated his curiosity and love of all music, new and old. He asked us to sit in with him that night. We jammed with a hero without rehearsal and without a care. It was like we were playing in a garage, except there were 19,000 people there. Once our full length record came out, he asked us to tour with him. It was a big opportunity to play in front of lots of people and make an impression.

    AC: How did the Global fans receive you? Best and worst gigs?

    RP: Like I have noted, we take the challenge of playing in front of all types of audiences knowing we can make a positive impression. We have played in 56 countries and hope to play in new parts of the world. Best gig? Maybe Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia in front of 25,000 strangers and rocking them all. The worst? It depends on how you look at it. Maybe in Philadelphia opening up for The Offspring. We stated our support for Mumia Abu Jamal and the crowd proceeded to throw beer, soda, lighters, shoes and anything else they could get their hands on at us. Some may say it was our best performance..who knows?

    AC: Tell us about your Grammy Awards? What are some of the things you wanted to say in the acceptance speeches that you never had the opportunity?

    RP: Grammy Awards? We’re thankful for them. I don’t think we skipped a beat in our thank yous and support for positive people and movements around the world.

    AC: Tell us about some of the causes the band is passionate about?

    RP: Right now we are anti-Trump. Pro-immigration, pro-healthcare for all, pro-public education, pro-arts funding…ya know…

    AC: Tell us about your Ted talks?

    RP: Ted Talks and it was a meaningful and prestigious thing to be asked to present ourselves next to top notch astro physicists, authors and behavioral scientists. A friend and accomplished USC professor Josh Kun helped us present our story, it’s another unique moment we are proud of.

    Here is the link: http://blog.ted.com/ozomatli_downlo/

    AC: In 1996 I worked with Los Lobos on Papa’s Dream we were Grammy nominated for best Musical Album for Children, tell about your music for Children what is the intent and overall vision?

    RP: Our OzoKidz record came about noticing our longtime fans were missing shows because they couldn’t get the baby sitter schedule in line with an Ozomatli night out. We figured a kids record might be worth doing so we proceeded to write some fun songs on a number of subjects. We especially love demonstrating the power of music to the little ones, but we hate when they cry because we didn’t play their favorite song. Can’t please them all…

    AC: Tell us about your latest recording.

    RP: Our latest recording is Non-Stop. It’s the fantasy of a Los Angeles band on a direct flight to Mexico City to pick up some old and new historical songs. They jump on another direct flight to Kinston, Jamaica to record with legendary musicians and producers Sly and Robbie and then return to Los Angeles on a Non-Stop flight with a batch full of Mexican classic songs recorded in Jamaican styles. It’s our first record of covers and it’s fun to see and hear people’s reactions and sing along with them.

    AC: Tell us about your new record deal with Cleopatra Records?

    RP: Cleopatra stepped up with a real offer and we loved them for it. They have been cool and we look forward to working with them to promote Non-Stop all over the world.

    AC: How has your audience changed over the years?

    RP: It amazes me to see fans who have been there since the beginning and it amazes me to see young people at our shows. I think we have always been humble about what we do and we always want to make our fans feels apart of us every time we play. Because of this our audience is both older and younger which is pretty cool.

    AC: What are some of the personal goals of band members?

    RP: I think most band members want to learn how to be better fathers, husbands and musicians. Better people and better players.

    AC: When it is all said and done, ideally what would you like Ozos legacy to be?

    RP: I still want us to make records that matter and that challenge us. I want us to care about music and the world. Hopefully we can fulfill those goals.


    Nancy Garcia June 1, 2017

    I’m impressed with the interest Raul shows the groups aim is toward mankinds concerns, the world, the rights of mankind, almost a kind of movement, sort of 60ish, very Bob Dylan like. When Raul said they were throwing everything but the kitchen sink that didn’t dim their feelings toward the job at hand, I hope they have a good touring schedule and a hit with the new music and albums, great interview very interesting!

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