Friday, January 15, 2016

Ozomatli at the Highline Ballroom

Raul Pacheco
In 1995, the members of what would become Ozomatli met while attempting to form a workers union in Los Angeles, California. Though they were not able to win recognition, they were given an abandoned building for one month. The building became a cultural arts center, and within it Ozomatli was born. The band originally was called Todos Somos Marcos, but soon became Ozomatli, named after a character on the Aztec calendar. Ozomatli won three Latin Grammy awards and released its seventh album, Place in the Sun, in 2014. The group also is known for advocating for farm-workers' rights and immigration reform. The current musicians in Ozomatli are guitarist Raúl Pacheco, trumpeter Asdrubal Sierra, saxophonist Ulises Bella, bassist Wil-Dog Abers, drummer Wally Valdez, and percussionists Jiro Yamaguchi and Justin 'El Niño' Porée. A new album featuring tributes to Latin music greats will be released in 2016.

At the Highline Ballroom tonight, Ozomatli symbolized a multicultural Los Angeles, featuring white, Latino, and Asian members. Ozomatli jammed a dynamic party mix of rock, Latin, hip hop, jazz, funk, and reggae, and on this night also included video footage and dancers into the set. The richness of the set was not only its diversity, but also its rather unique emphasis on Latin rhythms including salsa and cumbia, entities not often incorporated into rock music. As the set progressed, the accent of the lively music alternated between horns, percussion and vocals, as grooves locked in and flowed fluidly. The concert ended with the musicians and dancers walking into the center of the audience playing percussion and horns. The musicians and dancers then started a conga line that weaved through the dance floor. The show was as visually stimulating as it was aurally pleasing.

Visit Ozomatli at