Local Heroes: Ozomatli | KCET
Local Heroes: Ozomatli
"Los Angeles is made up of so many different communities, such an amazing melting pot of people...we're just one part of this huge, beautiful tapestry."
- Ulises Bella (sax, clarinet, requinto jarocho, keyboards, backing vocals)
Ozomatli is a community-based Latin fusion group that formed twelve years ago as part of a local labor protest. As a group, they have won several major music awards, including three Grammy's, a Latin Grammy, a Latin Billboard award, and an Alma Award. Their unique, global sound has garnered them acclaim and fans from all over the world. Ozomatli is currently made up of seven members: Asdru Sierra (lead vocals, trumpet), Raul Pacheco (lead vocals, guitar, tres, jarana), Justin Poree (rap vocals, percussion), Wil-dog Abers (bass, backing vocals), Jiro Yamaguchi (tabla, percussion, backing vocals), Ulises Bella (sax, clarinet, requinto jarocho, keyboards, backing vocals) and Mario Calire (drums). As global ambassadors of Latin music, they are highly respected by rock enthusiasts around the world both for their music and for their dedication to human rights, peace, and environmental issues.
As a band, Ozomatli's eclectic sound creates an identity that defines them as both "the voice of their city and...citizens of the world." They deftly and exuberantly mix hip-hop, cumbia, dancehall, merengue, funk and more. By combining all of these influences, they succeed in sonically defining the diversity of Los Angeles. They have planned numerous fundraisers, activist events, and school functions. Their music has been featured prominently at Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Clippers games, as well.
Involved in numerous local and national political causes, this Grammy-winning group has never lost sight of its mission and goals to give back to the community. Intensely involved in the anti-war and human rights movements in their travels all around the world, they still have time to give to local causes in Los Angeles like Padres Contra El Cancer--a local organization that helps children fighting cancer by supporting those children and their families. Most of their patients are based in Children's Hospital Los Angeles and, for the last several years, Ozomatli has performed pro bono at their annual fundraiser.
Due to the culturally diverse nature of the band's sound, Ozomatli has always been a popular group for international audiences. They have played everywhere from Japan and Australia to North Africa and South America. In 2007, they were invited to act as Cultural Ambassadors for the U.S. State Department, instilling the idea that "diversity promotes change" through their own multicultural style.
Ozomatli was the first Western band to play in Nepal as part of the celebration of a historic peace accord ratified in that country. The concert drew over fourteen thousand people. Last year, they were very proud of their instrumental effort in generating funding for a new wing of an orphanage in Nepal as well. Very recently, the band traveled to Mongolia and drew yet another record crowd of over twenty thousand people, all enticed by their powerful and universal sound.