Ozomatli 2012
Background information
Origin Los Angeles, California, United States
Genres Latin rock, Chicano rock, hip hop, world fusion, funk
Years active 1995–present
Labels Almo Sounds (1998-1999)
Interscope (2001-2002)
Concord/Real World (2004-2007)
Downtown/Mercer Street (2010)
Hornblow/Vanguard (2012-)
Website www.ozomatli.com

Ozomatli is a six-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, rap, and others.[1] The group formed in 1995 and has since released seven studio albums. The group is also known for advocating for farm-workers' rights and immigration reform. The band has performed in various countries all over the world, including China, Tunisia, Jordan, and Burma.

In 1998, Ozomatli released its self-titled debut album, and soon after opened for Carlos Santana on his Supernatural world tour. The group released Embrace the Chaos in 2001, followed by Street Signs in 2004. Don't Mess with the Dragon followed in 2007, which saw the band experimenting with a more diverse array of musical styles. The group composed music for Happy Feet 2 and recorded Ozomatli Presents Ozokidz, a family-friendly album. Since 2011, Ozomatli has also served as the in-house band for stand-up comedian Gabriel Iglesias' television show, Gabriel Iglesias Presents Stand Up Revolution.


1995-98: Formation and debut album

Ozomatli take their name from the Nahuatl word from the astrological symbol of the monkey, taken from the Aztec calendar. Ozomatli is also a god of dance, fire, the new harvest, and music.[2] In 1995, all the members met while attempting to form a workers union within Los Angeles. Though they were not able to win recognition, they were given an abandoned building for one month. The building turned into a cultural arts center, and within it Ozomatli was born.[3]

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?[4]

The band's first album, Ozomatli, was released on June 16, 1998 on Almo Sounds. The album reached mainstream success following an appearance on the late night talk show Vibe! featuring MC Chali 2na, turntablist Cut Chemist, drummer William Marrufo, and saxophone player Jose Espinoza, the album reached No. 7 on the Billboard Latin Albums chart (71 weeks) and No. 4 on the Billboard Latin Pop Albums chart (50 weeks). Two singles released from the album were "Cut Chemist Suite" and "Super Bowl Sundae".[5] In 1999, Ozomatli joined Mana and Carlos Santana on tour following Santana's release of Supernatural,[6] and in 2002, the band appeared on "One of These Days", the penultimate track on the latter's album Shaman.

1999-2005: Embrace the Chaos and Street Signs

Ozomatli's second album, Embrace the Chaos, was released on the inauspicious date of September 11, 2001.[7] Although many American bands cancelled their concerts, Ozomatli gained some recognition for continuing to play their concerts,[8] all the while continuing their commitment to social justice and progressive politics, in addition to the rising anti-war movement. In 2002, Embrace the Chaos won a Grammy for the Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album.

In 2003, Ozomatli released a six-song EP through Concord Records, featuring the rap vocals of Kanetic Source on "Cumbia De Los Muertos" and a collaboration with The Kumbia Kings on "Mi Gente."[9]

In 2004, Street Signs was released under Concord Records. In 2001, the album won the Grammy for "Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album2005, The album also won the Latin Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album in 2005.[10] ".[11]

In 2005, Ozomatli released their live album Live at the Fillmore, recorded at The Fillmore in San Francisco.

2006-09: Don't Mess With the Dragon

Guitarist Raúl Pacheco on the keynote panel of 2008 Pop Conference

In late 2006, shortly before the release of Don't 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. Their 2007 genre-crossing album, Don't Mess with the Dragon, released by Concord Records, was written at a local Los Angeles Latino art gallery, Tropico de Nopal. The album includes songs such as "After Party", which pays homage to old-school Chicano R&B, "When I Close My Eyes," which nods back to Fishbone and Oingo Boingo, "La Segunda Mano," which features the vocals of Quetzal's Martha Gonzales blending son jarocho with hip-hop, "City of Angels," which celebrates the city of Los Angeles, and "Temperatura," which was inspired by the May 2006 pro-immigration marches.[12] On September 20, 2007, Ozomatli announced that MC Jabu was leaving the group on amicable terms.[13]

In 2006, Ozomatli were invited by the U.S. State Department to serve as official Cultural Ambassadors on a series of government-sponsored international tours. The band has since traveled to Asia, Africa, South America, the Middle East, Tunisia, India, Jordan, Nepal, Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, and China.[14]

In early 2008, the group did a song for the Los Angeles Dodgers called "Can't Stop The Blue," their first recording with Tre Hardson. In the video, LA drummer Chris Cano is seen in place of Calire. Shortly thereafter, Sheffer Bruton and Tre Hardson were no longer seen playing with the group, and Mario Calire appeared to be back on the drumseat. In the summer of 2008, Ozomatli announced Chali 2na would be joining them for their Fall 2008 tour.[15] Later that year, group members Wil-dog and Justin contributed their voices to the Konami music game Dance Dance Revolution X as in-game announcers.

2010-present: Happy Feet 2 and Ozokidz

In 2010, Ozomatli helped celebrate the Boston Pops 125th Anniversary, accompanied by the Boston Symphony Orchestra.[16] Since that first orchestral collaboration, they have gone on to perform with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center, the Colorado Symphony, the San Diego Symphony, and the New York Pops.[14]

Ozomatli made an appearance at TEDxSF – the first musical talk ever given at any TED conference - mixing discussion and sound to explore the challenges and promises of musical identities in a global age.[14]

Ozomatli has also been involved in composing and scoring and contributing music to Happy Feet 2[17] and Elmo's Musical Monsterpiece[18] for Warner Brothers Interactive, SIMS for EA Games,[19] music for PBS Kids,[20] the films A Better Life[21] and Harlistas,[22] and for the TV Show Standup Revolution on Comedy Central.[23]

The past few years the band has focused on Ozomatli Presents Ozokidz, a special family-friendly set geared towards performing for children and adults alike. The album was released on Hornblow Recordings in September 2012.[24]

The next record was "Place in the Sun" released in 2014, and featuring Dave Stewart's production and co-writing, released on Vanguard. Jiro Yamaguchi took over the drum seat and the band is now six. They celebrate their 20th anniversary as a performing band in 2015 with most members being in the band since the early days. They are currently working on an album of songs that have been a big part of the Latino community's heritage, culling from Selena, Cafe Tacuba, Mana, and may others. The songs are approached Reggae style and the project is being produced by Reggae legends, Sly and Robbie. They are on tour year round.

Social and political activism

Ozomatli create music to: give voice to and reveal the culture and lives of Latinos;[25] fight for workers' rights;[26] and promote a global unity within both the city and the world. They promote this through their music, during their TEDxSF talk, and as Cultural Ambassadors of the US.

Notable performances


Current members

Past/Guest members


Studio albums

Live albums


Other contributions

Non-album tracks


  1. "The Santa Fe New Mexican". The Santa Fe New Mexican. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  2. http://www.santafenewmexican.com This was taken from a July 2, 2006 article in the Santa Fe New Mexican
  3. Viesca, Victor Hugo (4 October 2000). "Straight Out of the Barrio: Ozomatli and the Importance of Place in the Formation of Chicano/a Popular Culture in Los Angeles". Cultural Values. 4 (4): 446. doi:10.1080/14797580009367211.
  4. Ozomatli's Diverse Music Gets Personal, Weekend Edition Saturday, NPR. May 19, 2007.
  5. "The Ozomatli Picture Pages". Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  6. "Santana's Still Making Magic / Ozomatli, Mana join the party". SFGate. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  7. Laura Emerick. "5 questions with Ozomatli," Chicago Sun-Times, May 6, 2004, section 2, p. 52: "Q. Speaking of the band's last full-length record "Embrace the Chaos" came out on the worst of all possible days: Sept. 11, 2001...."
  8. (No author.) "Ozomatli: The party politicians," Times-Standard (Eureka, CA), December 1, 2005: "Ozomatli released its previous full-length album on September 11, 2001. While most bands in the country responded to the attacks on the World Trade Center by canceling their concerts, Ozomatli a multi-racial crew that has never been shy about their commitment to social justice, progressive politics and anti-war convictions decided to keep its dates and keep playing."
  9. "Ozomatli - Coming Up CD". Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  10. "2005 Grammy Award Winners". 14 February 2005. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  11. "Latin Grammys Shake Things Up". E! Online. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  12. "File not found - Ozomatli Official Website". Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  13. Goodbye Jabu!, ozomatli.com. September 20, 2007.
  14. 1 2 3 "File not found - Ozomatli Official Website". Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  15. "Ozomatli Reunited w/ Chali 2na - Headz Up Fall Tour 2008"
  16. "Ozomatli plays a contemporary smorgasbord". Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  17. 1 2 Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (1 June 2011). "Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Announces Happy Feet Two - The Videogame". Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  18. 1 2 "Elmo conducts music, dance on Wii". USATODAY.COM. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  19. "thesims3universe.com". Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  20. 1 2 "PBS KIDS Releases First Music Album, "PBS KIDS ROCKS!" Available on iTunes and Amazon : PBS". Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  21. "LatinoLA - Hollywood :: A Better Life: Tropico de Nopal/Ozomatli Connection". LatinoLA. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  22. "HARLISTAS: AN AMERICAN JOURNEY". Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  23. "Ozomatli backs Gabriel Iglesias' Comedy Central stand-up series, records music video, "Hey, It's Fluffy!"". Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  24. 1 2 "Ozomatli's new". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  25. Viesca, Victor Hugo (2004). "The Battle of Los Angeles: The Cultural Politics of Chicana/o Music in the Greater Eastside". American Quarterly. 56 (3): 725. doi:10.1353/aq.2004.0045.
  26. Viesca, Victor Hugo (4 October 2000). "Straight Out of the Barrio: Ozomatli and the Importance of Place in the Formation of Chicano/a Popular Culture in Los Angeles". Cultural Values. 4 (4): 455. doi:10.1080/14797580009367211.
  27. "Austin City Limits | Watch Online | PBS Video". Pbs.org. Retrieved 2012-04-18.
  28. Cohen, Sandy. 'Dancing With the Stars' makes another cut. 15 April 2008. Archived April 20, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  29. "All-Star Lineup Honors 2010 MusiCares Person Of The Year Neil Young".
  30. Sullivan, James. "Getting funky with the Pops", The Boston Globe, 7 May 2010.
  31. "Ozomatli Performing in China & Mongolia as U.S. Cultural Ambassadors".
  32. "Ozomatli & NCLR Call on Latinos to Vote for Respect".
  33. "Ozomatli, Calexico and More @ Hollywood Bowl".
  34. "File not found - Ozomatli Official Website". Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  35. "File not found - Ozomatli Official Website". Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  36. "File not found - Ozomatli Official Website". Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  37. "Dallas Gets Live with Talib Kweli and Ozomatli for Red Bull Soundclash"
  38. "iTunes Store". Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  39. "Ozomatli - KCET Awards Acceptance Speech 2010 - Facebook". Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  40. "iTunes - Music - iTunes Session by Ozomatli". iTunes. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  41. "Ozomatli with Josh Kun: At the Edge of Urban Identity"
  42. "File not found - Ozomatli Official Website". Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  43. "2011 Capital Awards Highlights"
  44. "David Lynch Foundation". PledgeMusic. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  46. "Alexandre Desplat's 'A Better Life' Soundtrack announced - Film Music Reporter". Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  47. "Embassy Archives - Embassy of the United States". Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  48. "Gabriel Iglesias Presents Stand Up Revolution Series Premiere - Comedy Central Press". Comedy Central Press. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  49. "Lincoln Center Presents American Songbook"
  50. "Voto Latino, iTunes Offer Music in Exchange For Election Participation". Billboard. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  51. "Create a State and the Million Plates Drive"
  52. "Ozomatli and Marinelli, Out of this World at NASA Ames". Mountain View, California Patch. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  53. "Jack Johnson and Friends - Best of Kokua Festival live album out on April 17th!". Best of Kokua Festival. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  54. "Cultural Touchstones of the LA Riots — Which Way, L.A.? — KCRW". Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  55. "California Lawyers for the Arts - Events and Workshops". Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  56. "Ozomatli Performs at the Opening Celebration". NAFSA: Association of International Educators Blog. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  57. "Playboy Jazz Festival". Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  58. "The New York Pops with Ozomatli"
  59. "The Choo Choo Bob Show - Children's TV Show - Trains and Local Music". Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  60. "Seattle News and Events - Ozomatli". Seattle Weekly. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  61. "Breaking News - Fluffy and Friends Are Back with a Second Season of "Gabriel Iglesias Presents Stand-Up Revolution" Debuting on Thursday, October 4 at 10:00 P.M. ET/PT on Comedy Central - TheFutonCritic.com". Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  62. "Human Rights Watch - Defending Human Rights Worldwide". Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  63. "Obama in Burma: How Ozomatli's 2009 visit served as a barometer". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  64. "Barry Manilow helps ring in the holidays at LA Live tree lighting". Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  65. "Fluffy Classics - Beetle". Comedy Central. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  66. "Ozomatli Turns To A New Cool: Kids' Music". NPR.org. 2 January 2013. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  67. "ESPN Teams with Recording Artists to Reimagine ESPN's NBA Theme". ESPN MediaZone. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
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