Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

Tight Latin influenced Hip Hop from Ozomatli

In the summer of 1999, I saw the brilliant Ben Harper at an outdoor venue in Cleveland. We hurried to the arena to get there on time and were disappointed to realize there was an opening band. We got a beer and settled in to possibly endure but hopefully enjoy the opener, a band named Ozomatli.

A few minutes later, we heard drumming, shouting, and police whistles coming from the back of the auditorium. A small parade of guys carrying horns, guitars, and percussion was jumping, drumming, and dancing toward the stage. They climbed up, plugged in, and launched into an incredibly tight set of Rock, Hip Hop, and Latin music. Sometimes a song focused on one or two of these three styles, but usually, the songs blended all three. That many musicians can produce a wall of sound. Each was individually talented and they played in lock step as an ensemble. We were absolutely blown away.

Ozomatli is an Aztec god of dance, fire, the new harvest, and music. Thanks, Wikipedia!

Ozomatli is an Aztec god of dance, fire, the new harvest, and music. Thanks, Wikipedia!

Ozomatli consists of 7 to 10 musicians (membership fluctuates) and has included Jurassic 5 members rapper Chali 2na and turntablist Cut Chemist. They have released 4 studio albums to date. I have three, but today I want to take you back to their debut release, on which they were touring when I saw them.

Released in 1998, the self-titled Ozomatli is a fiery blend of styles. The production is first rate and the songs are strong throughout. I still break out the CD and put it on from time to time, but 6 tracks from this release are on my iPod (I also picked 5 more from 2004’s equally good Street Signs, but that is for another day). Give these a listen.

  • Cut Chemist Suite – I recommended this song already on my party mix. It is my favorite Ozomatli song.
  • Cumbia De Los Muertos – This song is sung in Spanish except for the Reggae-inspired vocal break by Chali 2na. My wife loves this song.
  • Eva – More Latin feel. The energy of this song is unbelievable and features some stunning horn work.
  • Super Bowl Sundae – Do you like a little sitar with your Salsa-Rap? Ozomatli is there for you. This song is 32 flavors of cool.
  • Aqui No Sera – This has a mellow, tradtional Latin feel complete with Spanish guitars, accordion, and violin.
  • Coming War – The contrast between this song and the last one shows their range. This song has very little Latin feel. Instead it is straight up street Hip Hop with great scratching (and the machine that goes “Bing” from the Star Trek sick bay).

I saw them again at Bonnaroo last year. Their great concert energy allowed them to thrill the large audience watching at the main stage. Pick up their music, if you can, and absolutely do not miss any chance you have to see them live.

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March 12, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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