Connecting With People Through Music: Ozomatli at Khulla Manch

Features Issue 64 Jul, 2010
Text by Rishi Amatya

Music is a universal language, which transcends all bound-aries and melts listeners’ hearts, connecting people. And in the case of Ozomatli, it also gets people to jump up and dance.

“We get people to dance, it’s what we do best,” says Asdru Sierra, trumpeter and lead singer  of the band. Ozomatli is best known for creating a unique urban sound and their dedication towards addressing social issues through their music. They have won two Grammies, in 2002 and 2005 besides Latin Grammy Awards. This is their first tour to India and Nepal in the band’s 12-year history. The concert was jointly organized by the American Center and USAID/NEPAL.      

Ozomatli are: Wil-Dog Abers on Bass and Vocals, Raúl Pacheco-- Guitar and Lead Vocals, Justin Porée-- Percussion, MC and Vocals, Asdru Sierra-- Trumpet, Lead Vocals, Ulises Bella-- Tenor Sax, Clarinet and Vocals, Jiro Yamaguchi-- Percussion, Mario Calire-- Drums, Shef Bruton-- Trombone, Jabu Smith-- Freeman, MC.

The band from Los Angeles performed a free concert at Khulla Manch on 17 February with the message of ‘Different instruments but one rhythm, Together we can make a prosperous Nepal.’ Ozomatli use music as a positive outlet to reach a wider audience and their social messages are especially relevant in these troubled times.  The concert was kicked off by popular  local rock band Robin & the New Revolution. From there on, it was one big celebration of music, dance and togetherness.

Once Ozomatli took to the stage, the crowd was up on its feet throughout the concert. The mostly young crowd also included well-known local musicians enjoying the groove.

The band won a Grammy for Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album for ‘Embrace the Chaos’ in 2002. Then in 2005, they won another Grammy in the same category with their album ‘Street Signs’ and a Latin Grammy for the same album. Ozomatli has also played at the famous Glastonbury Festival in the UK in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004. They’ve also played the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland in 2003 and the North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland, 2002. Their latest appearance on a TV special was Jay Leno’s Tonight Show.

The music they played was a mixture of Spanish-English mash-ups of hip hop, salsa, cumbia, dub and middle Eastern funk and rock. When the crowd shouted for an encore, they responded by playing many more songs and mixing up genres yet again. Although the venue was not one of the best, they made up for it with their explosive performance and the enthusiastic audience loved every bit of it.