Inside Ozomatli

Ozomatli maybe be a local Los Angeles band that has been around for eighteen years and counting, but they are adopted sons of New Mexico. They are here this weekend to perform at the La Cosecha Dual Language Conference, a fundraiser for dual language education here in New Mexico. Citizens of the world, this seven-member band has a wide variety of musical styles and fusions including jazz, hip-hop, and salsa, to name just a few. Some of their fans love them for their political activism while others love them for their high-energy party-loving live performances. Whatever the reason you’re drawn to this band, they will give it their all to wow the crowd.

Each member of the band brings with them a different background and up-bringing from the same city. One thing is for sure they are no longer just a band or just friends, they are a family. As a family they strive to give back to the communities that have supported them. In Los Angeles, the Mayor has given them their own day, April 23rd (Ozomatli Day), in recognition of their efforts.  The band says it is important to them to encourage music and art in the schools so that is what they use their day hours to do. “Too often art and music are the first programs to be cut from the budget. All classes are important but unlike math that has a finite answer to a question, art and music force people to think out of the box. Future problem-solvers of the world will benefit from these classes. Exercising the creative muscle of your brain doing art and music teaches you to think for yourself.” Asdru Sierra

The band is proud of the fusion of musical styles in their music. They believe that music can break down cultural walls and biases.  Everyone on the planet relates to the world in different ways with different jobs to do. The band sees themselves as caretakers of the world. They bring people who might not otherwise have anything in common together for a good experience. They believe everything is a combination of other things — rock ‘n roll came to life by combining blues and jazz. Taking the idea further, the band is constantly striving to add new variety to their sound. “It can be the hardest part of making music they way we do, learning new styles and playing the sound with integrity. It is also the part that keeps it fun.”  Raul Pacheco

One of Ozomatli’s political messages is that everyone needs to learn different languages in this country. That is why they are here in New Mexico for La Cosecha. They are contributing their time and money to make scholarships available to New Mexico children for learning multiple languages.  After extensive touring outside the United States, it became clear to them that if our children want to stand a chance in the global market then they need to be bilingual. “Mandarin is the most spoken language in the world”, Asdru Sierra notes.  They aren’t insisting what language you choose to learn but the time of a single language to unify the nation is over. Back two hundred years ago, it made sense to insist on a single language, but the times have changed and the global economy insists on evolution of thought when approaching the world. Many of the members are bilingual and say that in many ways knowing both Spanish and English has been a large contributor to their success in the past eighteen years.

Being citizens of the world has gotten them named Cultural Ambassadors to the U.S. State Department. Luckily for these busy guys, they were already going all over the world reaching out to many different kinds of people with their music. “Life cannot be heavy or a party all the time and our music reflects that”. Ulises Bella  From helping grass roots political movements in Los Angeles gain momentum to cheering up a single listener, the band’s versatile music and positive lyrics are creating change on a national and global level. They have performed twice for President Obama at the White House and have joined political causes and rallies from here to Africa.

No matter how busy their touring schedule is, the band always manages to make a visit or three to New Mexico every year.  When asked what ties they have to our state, the answer is simple: “Green chile.”  When they were just starting out as a band they made a strong connection with the Chicano community here in New Mexico and up in Colorado. Grateful for the support of these adopted communities the bands makes time to give back and come through town often. Constant traveling and seeing how different people live in different places helps to keep the band motivated and inspired to do what they do best – share the inspiration.

There are no plans as of yet for how the band will celebrate turning twenty but they are certain they will be throwing a party. When asked if it will be on Ozomatli Day, there were shoulder shrugs all around. They suggest if you live outside Los Angeles and want to celebrate April 23, “buy a musician a meal. They are starving for the art.” On a more serious note, they recommend, “keep taking stands on issues you believe — the world is counting on it.”  Whatever bought your attention to Ozomatli, know they will keep changing growing and giving you more of what you love.

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Filed under Albuquerque, Art, Entertainment, Music

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