Ozomatli is a seven piece band playing primarily Latin, hip hop, and rock music, formed in 1995 in Los Angeles. They are known both for their vocal activist viewpoints and their wide array of musical styles - including salsa, jazz, funk, reggae, rap, and others.
Ozomatli take their name from the Nahuatl word for the Aztecastrological symbol of the monkey, which is also a god of dance, fire, the new harvest, and music. In 1995, all the members met while attempting to form a workers union within Los Angeles. While they weren't able to win recognition, they were given an abandoned building for one month. The building turned into a cultural arts center and within it, Ozomatli was born.
In a 2007 NPR interview, band members Jiro Yamaguchi and Ulises Bella describe Ozomatli:
You drive down Sunset Boulevard and turn off your stereo and roll down your windows and all the music that comes out of each and every different car, whether it's salsa, cumbia, merengue, or Hip Hop, funk or whatever, it's that crazy blend that's going on between that cacophony of sound is Ozomatli, y'know?
The band's first album, "Ozomatli", was released on June 16, 1998 on Almo Sounds. The album reached mainstream success following an appearance on the late night talk show “Vibe!” Featuring MC Chali 2na, turntablist Cut Chemist, drummer William Marrufo, and saxophone player Jose Espinoza, the album reached No. 7 on the Billboard Latin Albums chart (71 weeks) and No. 4 on the Billboard Latin Pop Albums chart (50 weeks). Two singles released from the album were “Cut Chemist Suite” and “Super Bowl Sundae”. In 1999, Ozomatli joined Mana and Carlos Santana on tour following Santana's release of Supernatural,, and in 2002, the band appeared on "One of These Days", the penultimate track on the latter's album Shaman.
In 2003, Ozomatli released a 6 song EP through Concord Records featuring the rap vocals of Kanetic Source on "Cumbia De Los Muertos" and a collaboration with The Kumbia Kings on "Mi Gente."
In 2004, Street Signs was released under Concord Records. In 2001, the album won the Grammy for "Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album2005, The album also won the Latin Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album in 2005. ".
In 2005, Ozomatli released their live album, Live at the Fillmore, recorded at The Fillmore in San Francisco.
In late 2006, shortly before the release of Don't Mess With the Dragon, DJ Spinobi left the band to pursue personal projects (but stuck around until the album's release, as he appears in the photos and is credited as a member). This was the end of the longest lasting Ozomatli lineup, and the first of many lineup changes that would occur over the next year and a half. April 3, 2007, saw the release of their fourth studio album Don't Mess With The Dragon, which was co-produced by K. C. Porter. Their 2007 genre-crossing album, Don't Mess with the Dragon, released by Concord Records, was written at a local Los Angeles Latino art gallery, Tropico de Nopal. The album includes songs like "After Party", which pays homage to old-school Chicano R&B, "When I Close My Eyes," which nods back to Fishbone and Oingo Boingo, "La Segunda Mano," which features the vocals of Quetzal's Martha Gonzales blending son jarocho with hip-hop, "City of Angels," which celebrates the city of Los Angeles, and "Temperatura," which was inspired by the May 2006 pro-immigration marches. On September 20, 2007, Ozomatli announced that MC Jabu was leaving the group on amicable terms.
In 2006, Ozomatli were invited by the U.S. State Department to serve as official Cultural Ambassadors on a series of government-sponsored international tours. The band has since traveled to Asia, Africa, South America, the Middle East, Tunisia, India, Jordan, Nepal, Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, and China.
In early 2008, the group did a song for the Los Angeles Dodgers called "Can't Stop The Blue," their first recording with Tre Hardson. In the video, LA drummer Chris Cano is seen in place of Calire. Shortly thereafter, Sheffer Bruton and Tre Hardson were no longer seen playing with the group, and Mario Calire appeared to be back on the drumseat. In the summer of 2008, Ozomatli announced Chali 2na would be joining them for their Fall 2008 tour. Later that year, group members Wil-dog and Justin contributed their voices to the Konami music game Dance Dance Revolution X as in-game announcers.
In 2010, Ozomatli helped celebrate the Boston Pops 125th Anniversary, accompanied by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Since that first orchestral collaboration, they have gone on to perform with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center, the Colorado Symphony, the San Diego Symphony, and the New York Pops.
Ozomatli made an appearance at TEDxSF – the first musical talk ever given at any TED conference - mixing discussion and sound to explore the challenges and promises of musical identities in a global age.
Ozomatli has also been involved in composing and scoring and contributing music to Happy Feet 2 and Elmo's Musical Monsterpiece for Warner Brothers Interactive, SIMS for EA Games, music for PBS Kids, the films A Better Life and Harlistas, and for the TV Show Standup Revolution on Comedy Central.
The past few years the band has focused on 'Ozomatli Presents Ozokidz, a special family friendly set geared towards performing for children and adults alike. The album was released on Hornblow Recordings in September 2012.
Social and Political Activism
Ozomatli create music to: give voice to and reveal the culture and live of Latinos; fight for workers' rights; and promote a global unity within both the city and the world. They promote this through their music, during their TEDxSF talk, and as Cultural Ambassadors of the US.
In 1999 they appeared in the Drew Barrymore movie Never Been Kissed. They are the band playing in the reggae club when she ingests "Ganja cake", a cake with marijuana. In the scene, they play "Cumbia De Los Muertos" followed by "Cut Chemist Suite" where Barrymore's character dances wildly in front of the entire club.
The group appeared in HBOsSex and the City episode "They Shoot Single People, Don't They?" airing June 27, 1999.
In 2004 the group was confronted while performing outside of a club where they would later have a concert. Two members of the band, as well as the manager, were arrested. The charges were eventually dropped. After this, the band was scheduled to perform at the Latin Grammy Awards, where they were introduced by George Lopez: "And now, a band that is very excited to learn that their performance tonight counts as community service, Ozomatli!"
In January 2005, Ozomatli was the opening band of Jamcruise 3. The band made several other scheduled — and impromptu — performances during the four-day cruise.
In March 2005, Ozomatli played at WOMAdelaide, a world music festival in Adelaide, South Australia. After refusing to leave the stage 15 minutes late during one of their two night sets, they leaped into the crowd for a 45-minute encore.
The September 25, 2006 episode of the Showtime comedy/drama Weeds featured the show’s opening theme music — "Little Boxes", written by Malvina Reynolds — performed by Ozomatli. The second season of Weeds featured a different performer and musical genre each week for its theme song.
In February 2007, Ozomatli toured throughout India and Nepal, sponsored by the State Department.
From July 22 to July 30, 2007, Ozomatli toured though Tunisia (one performance), Jordan (four performances) and Egypt (two performances), sponsored by the State Department. The concerts were staged in locations such as amphitheaters (Jordan), citadels (Cairo, Egypt), and forts (Alexandria, Egypt).
From May 21 to June 4, 2010, Ozomatli performed in Mongolia and China as part of their Cultural Ambassadors program.
In September 2010, Ozomatli partnered with NCLR (National Council of La Raza) to release “Respeto”, a widget download campaign, to encourage voter participation.
In September 2010, Ozomatli headlined the Hollywood Bowl for KCRW's World Music Festival 2010 featuring performances from Calexico, Mexican Institute Of Sound, Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles and dance performances by Grandeza Mexicana.
In September 2010, Ozomatli's video to "All Around The World" was released.
On September 15, 2010, Ozomatli performed a free show at the Kennedy Center in celebration of Mexico’s Bicentennial Independence.
On September 2010, Apple uses Ozomatli's "Fire Away" album cover as their campaign image.
In October 2010, Ozomatli performed at the USC Presidential Rally with Barack Obama.
In October 2010, Ozomatli was part of the Red Bull Soundclash with Talib Kweli.
In October 2010, Ozomatli released a cover of Caifanes’ “Nubes”
In October 2010, Ozomatli was awarded the KCET Local Heroes Award for their humanitarian contributions in Los Angeles.
In November 2, 2010, Ozomatli released 'iTunes Sessions', rethinking and reimagining classic songs.
In November 2010, Ozomatli participated in Ted Talk in San Francisco.
In November 2010, Ozomatli collaborated with the Trojan Marching Band at the USC/Notre Dame half time show.
In March 2011, Ozomatli was awarded the NCLR (National Council of La Raza) Capital Awards.
Ozomatli teamed up with The David Lynch Foundation (DLF) in March 2011 to help launch the organization's ‘Download for Good’ campaign on PledgeMusic. Other artists in the compilations included: Arrested Development, Au Revoir Simone, Ben Folds, Peter Gabriel, Mary Hopkin, Moby, Maroon 5, Neon Trees, Heather Nova, Iggy Pop, Carmen Rizzo, Salman Ahmad, Slightly Stoopid, Dave Stewart, Andy Summers and Tom Waits.
In May 6, 2011 Ozomatli performed at the seventh annual MusiCares® MAP Fund® benefit concert which honored Depeche Mode lead singer Dave Gahan and Vans Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman.
In the summer of 2011, the Happy Feet Two Videogame soundtrack was released which featured music written and composed by Ozomatli.
In June 2011, the original track "Jardinero" by Ozomatli, composed for the film, A Better Life, was digitally released by Nacional Records.
Continuing their role as Cultural Ambassadors of the U.S. State Department, from July 4–11, Ozomatli did performed a number of shows in Poland.
In October 2011, Gabriel Iglesias Presents "Stand-Up Revolution" premiered on Comedy Central. The TV show featured Ozomatli as the house band and in its music video "Hey, it's Fluffy!"
In January 2012, Ozomatli performed at the Time Warner Center in New York for the American Songbook Series.
The Voto Latino iTunes Compilation from March 2012 featured an Ozomatli song in the free 35-track download which also included music from Pitbull, Ceci Bastida, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Diego Garcia and more aimed to encourage voter awareness.
Ozomatli was part of the “Create a State” campaign in March 2012 for the California Arts Council aimed to raise funds for arts and arts education programs. The campaign also included the support of artists Debbie Allen, Herb Alpert, Annette Bening, Jack Black, Eli Broad, Father Greg Boyle, Vernon Davis, Plácido Domingo, The Edge, Harrison Ford, David Geffen, Frank Gehry, Cast of "Glee", Macy Gray, Quincy Jones, Steve Martin, Wolfgang Puck, Robert Redford, Tim Robbins, Ed Ruscha, Maria Shriver, Russell Simmons, and Alice Waters.
In March 2012, Ozomatli teamed up with composer, conductor, and performer Anthony Marinelly for a performance at NASA Ames in Mountain View for the Conrad Foundation Spirit of Innovation Summit.
In April 2012, Ozomatli was featured in 'Jack Johnson & Friends - Best of the Kokua Festival', a 13-track compilation of live performances from the Kokua Festival with musicians Willie Nelson, Jackson Browne, Eddie Vedder, Ben Harper, Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds, Ziggy Marley, Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, Taj Mahal, G. Love, John Cruz, Paula Fuga, Zach Gill and more.
Ozomatli appeared in the anniversary edition of 'Which Way, LA?' in the "Cultural Touchstones of the LA Riots" segment with host Warren Olney on KCRW.
On April 29, 2012, Ozomatli was honored at the 5th Annual California Lawyers for the Arts' Artistic License Awards in Santa Monica to recognize the band's artistic work in the communities it serves.
In May 2012, Ozomatli kicked off the opening celebration with a performance at NAFSA’s 2012 Annual Conference & Expo. in downtown Houston.
In June 2012, Ozomatli headlined the 34th Annual Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl.
Sesame Street: Elmo's Musical Monsterpiece video game by Warner Bros. was released in June 2012, which included a musical score performed by Ozomatli.
Ozomatli performed with The New York Pops led by Music Director Steven Reineke at SummerStage NYC 2012.
In July 2012, Ozomatli recorded an episode for the Choo Choo Bob show in Minneapolis.
Throughout the summer and fall of 2012, Ozomatli teamed up with HeadCount to provide voting registration at Ozomatli shows.
In July 2012, PBS KIDS ROCKS! album was released. The album includes tracks by Ozomatli, The Weepies and They Might Be Giants.
In September 2012, Ozomatli released their album 'Ozomatli Presents Ozokidz'.
October 2012 marked the premier of Gabriel Iglesias' Stand Up Revolution Season 2 on Comedy Central with Ozomatli as the house band. The show also premiered the music video "Stand-Up Revolution" with Gabriel Iglesias.
In November, Ozomatli performed at the 2012 Voices for Justice Dinner in L.A. to celebrate the work of Congolese activist, Abbé Benoît Kinalegu with Ben Affleck, the founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative as a special guest.
In the November 16, 2012 episode of the Rachel Maddow show, Ozomatli received a special mention for being the first band to visit Burma (now Myanmar) in 2009.
In November 2012, Ozomatli performed at The 5th Annual Holiday Tree Lighting at L.A. LIVE celebration along with Barry Manilow, Cody Simpson, Sarah Brightman, and Eric Benet.
The debut of the 'Hey, it's Fluffy cartoons' with the music of Ozomatli premiered in November 2012.
In December 2012, the first Ozokidz video "Balloon Fest" premiered.
Ozomatli was interviewed in January 2, 2013 music segment of NPR.
In February 2013, Ozomatli reimagined the ESPN NBA theme song where fans were asked to vote for their favorite version from different artists.
^Laura Emerick. "5 questions with — Ozomatli," Chicago Sun-Times, May 6, 2004, section 2, page 52: "Q. Speaking of the band's last full-length record — "Embrace the Chaos" came out on the worst of all possible days: Sept. 11, 2001 ... ."
^(No author.) "Ozomatli : The party politicians," Times-Standard (Eureka, CA), December 1, 2005: "Ozomatli released its previous full-length album on September 11, 2001. While most bands in the country responded to the attacks on the World Trade Center by canceling their concerts, Ozomatli — a multi-racial crew that has never been shy about their commitment to social justice, progressive politics and anti-war convictions — decided to keep its dates and keep playing."