Skip to content

Ozomatli At The Music Center, Saturday, September 3rd, 2022


It’s difficult to remember the exact year, but it was on the eve of the new millennium, probably just after the release of their debut album in 1998. I saw Ozomatli live for the first time during a late summer concert at Santa Monica pier. I knew nothing about them, but the young and dense crowd became hysterical. They were a fresh and upcoming band at the time, and they were all the rage for the Latino youth. I don’t mean rage like Rage Against the Machine, but the lyrics were politically charged enough to make a few fists rise in the air and excite the crowds to a level of pushing and jumping that you only encounter at punk shows. Just check out the lyrics of “Como Ves,” a song they never miss playing. “Como ves, como ves, la historia no es como crees… Cuba y Africa su Hermano, vive su dolor” [As you see, as you see, history is not what you think…Cuba and Africa his brother lives his pain].

Ozomatli, one of the most ethnically diverse bands around, won their first Grammy for Best Latin Rock Alternative Album with their 2002 “Embrace the Chaos.” Since, they have won two other Grammys, and released an album every 2 or 3 years, while continuing their mission to blend Latin rhythms, Afro beats, and reggaeton with rock, funk, dub, R&B, and hip-hop for the joy of everyone. An Ozomatli album is a melting pot, a mirror of our city of Angels and the energy and joy that emanate from their live performances have barely diminished over the years. Last night, the band gave a free concert downtown LA, on the beautiful plaza in front of the music center and if everyone looked a bit older, including the crowd, the party spirit was on from start to finish.

The lineup has evolved a bit over the years; I remember seeing them with Jurassic 5 rapper Chali 2na (he left to do his own thing), but the core of the band is still intact. There’s Wil-Dog Abers on bass, still making wild faces and occasional jumps, Raul Pacheco on guitar, tres, and vocals, Asdru Sierra on trumpet, keys, and vocals, Ulises Bella on saxophone, clarinet, keyboard, and melodica, Justin ‘El Nino’ Porée on percussion and rap vocals. At one exception, Jiro Yamaguchi was not behind his drums last night, replaced by someone else. It’s a large band with no frontman and some fluid and upbeat energy as everyone constantly moves from one place to the other, juggling back and forth from guitars to tubas and other instruments between most numbers: they are all very talented musicians, and few acts could match their effortless versatility. I still remember the energy of the Santa Monica concert, there was a taste of revolt in the air, but Ozomatli has since cultivated this burgeoning revolution in a very gentle manner. They are more a party band than a rebellion, and if they riot, it’s still a family affair with a large smile on every face.

They have just released a new album with a triumphant title, “Marching On,” and last night, they played for close to 2 hours, mixing tracks from their extensive catalog, including songs from “Embrace the Chaos” and “Ozomatli,” that they hadn’t played for a long time. Even though the delivery has always been soothing and uplifting, they are a band with a message, like a fun street party that doesn’t want to end until we get it. The lyrics of the title track of the new album are very clear: ”Yeah we keep marching till the justice reigns / And the world sings the freedom’s song / Yeah we keep marching while the battle rages / As the new generations born / Till we right the wrongs.” Last night, everyone was dancing in the alleys and having a good time: if it is a riot, it’s a very joyful one

Their horn section and Latin percussion never disappoint. If they have always embraced a heritage of salsa, cumbia, and merengue, the cacophony of style and sounds is their signature: rap emerges when Justin ‘El Nino’ Porée takes the lead, while Asdru Sierra provides the highest notes during the most poignant tunes. From fast tempos to riotous ska-punk to call-to-arms chorus to Latin lullabies, last night was a fast-moving show, the type of high-energy, sweaty dancefloor that they have accustomed their fans, a fusion of salsa, funk, hip-hop, soul, and punk wrapped around a sociopolitical commentary. As usual, they closed the show with a single-line-among-the-crowd parade, stopping to form a circle to bang out unplugged versions of the “Olé” soccer chant to anything else, and letting the crowd do the rest.

Ozomatli made hybrid music before it was fashionable and more than twenty years later, they still embrace the chaos through a pluralism of sounds and styles. After the success of their first albums, they probably could have become bigger stars, but I am sure they never tried to achieve anything of this sort and never took themselves seriously enough. Plus, they have always stayed very close to their people and audience. While delivering meaningful anti-materialist and antiwar messages, they have always preferred the street party to Hollywood fake glamor.


Leave a Comment


Support Let Me Help Inc by shopping at

The Daisy Jopling Band To Perform “Who’s Who” At The Transfiguration Church In Tarrytown, NY Sunday May 12th, 2024 7 PM ET

By admin | May 9, 2024 |

The Transfiguration Church in Tarrytown, New York Presents “Who’s Who”, original violin arrangements of iconic songs by The Who performed by the Daisy Jopling Band featuring the Sleepy Hollow High School Chamber Orchestra on Sunday, May 12th, 2024. Location: Transfiguration Church 268 South Broadway Tarrytown, NY 10591 United States Tickets are $25 and can be…

Cyborg Drummer/DJ DRMAGDN Headlining Montauk Music Fest

By admin | April 9, 2024 |

Major Label BMG Records Artist & Producer DRMAGDN Cyborg Drummer / DJ will be making his Montauk Music Fest debut this year in May. DRMAGDN will be the Official Host & MC of The Montauk Music Fest plus play headlining sets on Friday 5/17 and Saturday 5/18 from 10pm-12am at Gurney’s Montauk Resort (290 Old…

RED CARPET EVENT @ Chelsea Table & Stage 4/12/24 Featuring THE AMERICAN RELICS & DRMAGDN

By admin | March 25, 2024 |

On Friday April 12th, 2024 beginning at 6:30 pm ET  there will be a Red Carpet event pre-show sponsored by Tribeca Records at the trendy nightspot Chelsea Table and Stage located in the heart of Chelsea at 152 west 26th street (inside the Hilton Fashion Hotel) in NYC. The Red Carpet will be followed by…

Live Review: Composer Randy Edelman Live at Chelsea T&S “2nd Annual St. Patrick’s Day Massacre” 03/16/24 and Record Release in NYC

By admin | March 17, 2024 |

There was an infinite vitality of velvet green flowing deliciously through the air as Composer Randy Edelman presented his 2nd Annual St. Patrick’s Day Massacre at the trendy new nightspot Chelsea Table & Stage in the heart of NYC on March 16, 2024….. a vivacious close to the spirited Irish Parade. His music is the…

DRMAGDN: Cyborg Drummer/DJ Debuts @ Chelsea T&S With Retro 80’s Party & Red Carpet Event 4/12/24

By admin | February 29, 2024 |

BMG recording artist, producer and World renowned, Global Touring Electrifying Powerhouse, DRMAGDN: Cyborg Drummer and DJ will make his debut at the popular, trendy night spot Chelsea Table & Stage (located at 152 west 26th street inside the Hilton Hotel) on  Friday April 12, 2024 @ 9:00PM. DRMAGDN will be celebrating his high energy brand of Electronic Dance Music (EDM)…

Going Steady: New Singles 2-23-24- 2-29-24 Reviewed

By Iman Lababedi | February 26, 2024 |

dance pop, gooey confection

US Top Ten Albums Tracking 2-16-24 – 2-22-24

By Iman Lababedi | February 26, 2024 |

75K EAUs is abysmal

Our Friend Tony Orlando’s Farewell Tour

By admin | February 25, 2024 |

“I still hit the ball, I just can’t run the bases!!!”

Sneak Peaks: New Album releases 3-1-24 – 3-7-24

By Iman Lababedi | February 25, 2024 |

contenders for the best punk rock around

Child Bite, Lamb Of God, Pantera At Madison Square Garden, Thursday, February 22nd, 2024, Reviewed

By Iman Lababedi | February 25, 2024 |

A three hours of hard rock, metal not metal, swift, loud, egoless pure metal

Scroll To Top