Ozomatli
United States
Music group
Ozomatli

It is time for a revolution.
It is time for another Ozomatli album.
It is time for Street Signs.

The last time Los Angeles’ beloved Afro-Latin-and-beyond style-mashers released an album, it was September 11, 2001. While most bands in the United States responded to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon by canceling their concerts, Ozomatli - a multi-racial crew who have never been shy about their commitment to social justice, progressive politics, and anti-war convictions - decided to keep their dates and keep playing.

“Music is the key to every culture, the beginning of an understanding,” says the band’s trumpet player and co-vocalist Asdru Sierra. “September 11 really pushed us to delve into North African and Arab music. For us, music is a language far more universal than politics.”

The Grammy® Award-winning "Street Signs", the band’s first full-length studio album in three years, bears this new Middle Eastern influence out in typical Ozo style, by mixing it into their trademark blend of hip-hop and Latin styles.

When the band’s original MC Chali 2na (now of Jurassic 5) returns to take center stage on “Who’s To Blame,” he drops rhymes about “presidential motorcades” and “Yakuza tattoos” over a reedy Gnawa trance session complete with tablas and hand-claps. “Believe,” the album’s uplifting opener that looks for hope in destruction, features Veteran Moroccan sintir master Hassan Hakmoun, who’s joined by the acclaimed French-Jewish gypsy violinists Les Yeux Noir and The Prague Symphony (yes, The Prague Symphony).

The body-moving urban globe-trots of "Street Signs" were encouraged by Ozo’s new label, Concord Records, who gave them total creative freedom to follow their songs wherever they went. “With the last record, I loved all of our collaborations, but it wasn’t a complete representation of who Ozomatli is,” says Sierra of the band’s sophomore outing that paired them with the esteemed hip-hop likes of Common and De La Soul. “Concord just seemed happy to let us go off and do our thing. There’s a real sense of acceptance of what we do. Plus, I’m really honored to be on the same label as Eddie Palmieri. He’s my idol.”

The band invited Palmieri, the legendary Latin jazz and salsa pianist, to play on “Nadie Te Tira,” where his gorgeous solo piano lines set off a round of horn-blasted salsa fusion. Along with Palmieri, Hakmoun, Les Yeux Noir, Chali 2na, and the Prague Symphony (who grace three tracks), Ozomatli are also joined by the band’s original DJ, Cut Chemist (“Dejame en Paz”). There’s also the band’s new MC (Jabu, formerly of 4th Avenue Jones) and guest drummer, Mario Calire (formerly of The Wallflowers).

Throw in a board mixologist who’s worked with everyone from Justin Timberlake and NERD to Michael Jackson and Prince (Serben Ghenea), and engineers who’ve collaborated with the likes of Beck, Santana, Jack Johnson, and Cypress Hill (Robert Carranza and Anton Pukshansky), and you get what is easily the band’s most vibrant and ambitious project to date. Everyone from critics to NARAS members agree. In February 2005, "Street Signs" received the Grammy award for Latin Rock / Alternative Album of the Year.

“After eight years of being together,” explains tenor saxophonist Ulises Bella, “our overall comfort level with ourselves and with our playing has really grown. The songs venture off to a lot of different areas. That’s the beauty of Ozomatli, being able to do things really differently than everyone else.”

"Street Signs" is both a mature testament to the band’s nearly decade-long evolution and a fresh, dance floor-rocking reminder of their commitment to creating original music in the face of industry conservatism. “Saturday Night” is a “dip-dive-socialize” hip-hop block party. “Love & Hope” is an anthem waiting to happen with its English-language mix of Arabic strings and new-school Chicano funk-rock. “Dejame En Paz” is a papi chulo merengue fest that boils over into the mosh pit. The band even re-mixes itself (with the help of Ghenea and John Hanes) on “Ya Viene El Sol,” turning its soaring concert sing-a-long into a piece of DJ heaven; a broken-beat electro cut-up of dancehall, batucada, and jarocho.

“Since we started, our perspectives have changed as our lives have changed,” says Bella. “We just trust each other more now. Everyone gives everyone the space we all need. This band did not start, at all, to get a record deal. It started out of love for the music we made, and that’s exactly where we still are.”

Ozomatli are:
Jiro Yamaguchi - Percussion
Mario Calire - Drums
Justin Poree - Percussion, MC, Vocals
Wil-Dog Abers - Bass, Vocals
Asdrubal Sierra - Trumpet, Lead Vocals
Raul Pacheco - Guitar, Lead Vocals
Ulises Bella - Tenor Sax, Clarinet, Vocals
Rene ‘Spinobi’ Dominguez - Turntablist
Jabu - MC
Sheffer Bruton - Trombone
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