In their sixteen years together as a band, celebrated Los Angeles culture-mashers Ozomatli have gone from being hometown heroes to being named U.S. State Department Cultural Ambassadors. Ozomatli has always juggled two key identities: they are the voice of their city and citizens of the world. Their music - a notorious urban-Latino-and-beyond collision of hip hop and salsa, dancehall and cumbia, samba and funk, merengue and comparsa, East LA R&B and New Orleans second line, Jamaican ragga and Indian raga - has long followed a key mantra: it will take you around the world by taking you around L.A. This has never been truer for Ozo than it is now.
Originally formed to play at a Los Angeles labor protest over a decade ago, Ozomatli spent some of their early days participating in everything from earthquake prep "hip hop ghetto plays" at inner-city elementary schools to community activist events, protests, and city fundraisers. Ever since, they have been synonymous with their city: their music has been taken up by both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Clippers, they recorded the street-view travelogue "City of Angels" as a new urban anthem, and they were featured as part of the prominent L.A. figures imaging campaign "We Are 4 L.A." on NBC, and have the distinction of headlining the Hollywood Bowl twice in 2008 and 2010. In recognition of their efforts towards Los Angeles, the City of Los Angeles has officially declared April 23rd in perpetuity as "Ozomatli Day". Ozomatli were also recipients of the Local Heroes Award by Los Angeles PBS station KCET-TV, recognizing the band’s longstanding accomplishments and community service throughout Southern California.
"This band could not have happened anywhere else but L.A.," saxophonist and clarinetist Ulises Bella has said. "Man, the tension of it, the multiculturalism of it. L.A. is like, we’re bonded by bridges." Ozo is also a product of the city’s grassroots political scene. Proudly born as a multi-racial crew in post-uprising 90s Los Angeles, the band has built a formidable reputation over five full-length studio albums and a relentless touring schedule for taking party rocking so seriously that it becomes new school musical activism.
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