Ozomatli is an eight 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, and others.
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?
Ozomatli take their name from the Nahuatl word for the Aztec astrological symbol of the monkey, which is also a god of dance, fire, the new harvest, and music.
The band has experienced many member changes, having had as many as ten members, and as few as seven. There are a core of six members who have been featured in all of its lineups: Asdru Sierra (lead vocals, trumpet), Raul Pacheco (lead vocals, guitar, tres, jarana), Justin Poree (rap vocals, percussion), Wil-dog Abers (bass, backing vocals), Jiro Yamaguchi (tabla, percussion, backing vocals) and Ulises Bella (sax, clarinet, requinto jaracho, keyboards, backing vocals).
The members of the band met through their affiliation with the Peace and Justice Center of Los Angeles, and their first performance was for picketers during a strike. They began their career in the Los Angeles and San Diego/Mexico border-area club scene, and added MC Chali 2na, turntablist Cut Chemist, drummer William Marrufo, and sax player Jose Espinoza. Following an appearance in Vibe magazine, the group broke into the mainstream, releasing Ozomatli, their self-titled debut album, in June 1998 under the Almo Sounds label.
Between their first and second albums, the band experienced a number of member changes, with four of the ten members leaving the band. First DJ Cut Chemist left shortly after the release of the first album and was replace by Kid WIK. Later on Chali 2na left concentrate on hip-hop outfit Jurassic 5 (which also included Cut Chemist). Chali 2na hand-picked his own replacement as Kanetic Source. While making the second album, Kanetic Source, Kid WIK, Jose Espinoza, and William Marrufo all left. The band then added drummer Andy Mendoza.
Ozomatli's second album, Embrace the Chaos, was released on the inauspicious date of September 11 2001. Although many American bands cancelled their concerts, Ozomatli gained some recognition for continuing to play their concerts, all the while continuing their commitment to social justice and progressive politics, in addition to the rising anti-war movement. Kanetic Source appeared as a guest in some songs on the album, and continued to tour with the band as a guest. Chali 2na also appears, along with Kanetic Source, in the song "Vocal Artillery" but goes uncredited.
The band released "Coming Up", a limited edition EP with drummer Mario Calire replacing Andy Mendoza, and the additions of Trombone player Sheffer Bruton and turntablist DJ Spinobi (who had appeared on some tracks on "Embrace The Chaos"). Kanetic Source is listed as an official member on this release although there are very few rap vocal parts.
Afterwards, the band made a further commitment to a new direction in music, embracing North African and Arab musical styles in addition to their own. There were more member changes as well, with rapper MC Jabu replacing Kanetic Source. This lineup of the original six plus Calire, Bruton, Spinobi, and Jabu would be Ozomatli's longest lasting lineup and would record three albums together ("Street Signs", "Live At The Filmore", and "Dont Mess With The Dragon").
The musical styles of many cultures are blended on 2004's Street Signs, and also features another guest appearance by former MC Chali 2na, this time credited, in the song "Whos To Blame". In 2005, Street Signs won the Grammy Award for Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album.
In late 2006, shortly before the release of "Dont 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.
On September 20, 2007, Ozomatli announced that MC Jabu was leaving the group on amicable terms. He was replaced with Tre Hardson.
In early 2008, the group did a song for the dodgers baseball team called "Cant Stop The Blue" their first recording with Tre Hardson, in the video a different drummer is seen in place of Calire, (LA drummer Chris Cano who fills in as a sub for Calire). Shortly after Sheffer Bruton and Tre Hardson were no longer seen playing with the group, and Mario Calire appeared to be back on the drumseat.
On July 18, 2008, Ozomatli did a show with original MC Chali 2na, and announced that he had re-joined the group. In August, they traveled to Africa, without Chali 2na.
Carlos Santana offered the band one of their early breaks as his opening act during his 1998 tour to promote Supernatural.
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.
The group appeared in HBOs Sex and the City episode "They Shoot Single People, Don't They?" airing June 27, 1999.
During the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, Ozomatli played a live concert before thousands of protesters across the street from the Staples Center. Also performing at the protest was Rage Against the Machine.
The group received the 2002 Grammy Award for 'Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album'.
Shortly after receiving a Grammy, Ozomatli played a set at the 2002 award winning music festival The Berkshire Mountain Music Festival (aka Berkfest).
After playing at Coachella, Ozomatli were featured in Newsweek and on the Univision program Despierta America in June 2004.
Ozomatli has performed three times at the Austin, Texas music festival South by Southwest, most recently in 2007.
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!"
Austin City Limits featured the band on the November 13, 2004 episode preceded by The Polyphonic Spree.
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 has 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.
On June 14, 2007 Ozomatli performed at Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco for the Apple WWDC Bash.
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).
On August 29, 2007, Ozomatli performed on Late Night with Conan O'Brien.
On April 15, 2008, Ozomatli performed "Esa Morena" live on a results show of season six of ABC's Dancing With The Stars..
They played the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival on June 15, 2008.
The band headlined a feature stage (Gentilly) at the 2008 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival to a crowd of thousands, featuring Chali 2Na and a local New Orleans Jr. High School jazz band on stage.
Ozomatli is currently the supporting act for O.A.R.'s 2008 "All Sides" tour, where they regularly appear with the band to perform the song "Whatever Happened".
Wil-Dog Abers: Bass, marimbula, background vocals
Ra??l 'El Bully' Pacheco: Guitar, tres, jarana, vocals
Justin 'El Ni?±o' Por?©e: Percussion, rap vocals
Asdru Sierra: Trumpet, lead vocals, piano
Ulises Bella: Saxophone, background vocals, requinto jarocho, keyboard, melodica
Jiro Yamaguchi: Tabla, cajon, assorted percussion and background vocals
Mario Calire - Drums
Chali 2na: Rap vocals on self-titled album
Chris Cano: Drums (during Mario Calire's frequent absences in 2008)
Cut Chemist: Turntables on Ozomatli and as a guest on Embrace the Chaos
William Marrufo: drums on Ozomatli
Jose Espinoza: Alto sax on Ozomatli
Kid.W.I.K.: Turntables on tour 1998-2000
Kanetic Source: Rap vocals on "Embrace The Chaos" and "Coming Up" EP
Andy Mendoza: drums on Embrace the Chaos
Rene 'DJ Spinobi' Dominguez: Turntables on Embrace the Chaos(as guest), "Coming Up", Street Signs, and Don't Mess with the Dragon
M.C. Jabu Smith-Freeman: Rap vocals on Street Signs and Don't Mess with the Dragon
Tre Hardson (The Pharcyde): rap vocals, background vocals on tours in fall 2007 and early 2008
Sheffer Bruton: Trombone on "Street Signs" and "Dont Mess with the Dragon"
Ozomatli (1998) Almo Sounds
Embrace the Chaos (2001) Interscope
Street Signs (2004) Concord Records, Real World Records
Don't Mess with the Dragon (2007) Concord Records
Live at the Fillmore (2005) Concord Records
Ya Llego EP
Coming Up EP (2003)
Eklektikos Live (2005) - "Believe"
Change is Now: Renewing America's Promise (2009) - "Can't Stop"
"One of these Days" with Santana on Shaman
"Mi Gente" with Kumbia Kings on Kumbia Kings III (also on Ozomatli's Coming Up EP)
"April 29, 1992 (Miami)" a Sublime cover on the Sublime tribute album, Look at All the Love We Found
"Whipped Cream (Anthony Marinelli Remix)" and "Love Potion #9 (Anthony Marinelli Remix)" with Herb Alpert on Whipped Cream & Other Delights - Rewhipped
"Let The Horn Blow" and "En Este Varrio" with Delinquent Habits on their New and Improved album