The Concert for Fair Food headliners talk about their history, their views on music as a vehicle for social change, their love of live performance, and more!
Earlier this week we announced the spectacular lineup for the upcoming Concert for Fair Food, a bill headlined by the two-time Grammy Award-winning band Ozomatli. At that time we provided a quick thumbnail sketch of the band’s unique history and eclectic musical style, and promised to fill in the gaps in our profile of the LA-based group in the days ahead.
And so today we are taking a closer look at Ozomatli (a band closing in on its 20th anniversary, much like the CIW itself), but to do so we thought it would be best to let the band members speak for themselves. We searched the internet for interviews and videos that convey the band’s distinctive character, including some of their incredible live performances — like the one above from 2013 in Austin, TX, of the song “Cumbia de los Muertos,” one of their very first big hits, and two more that follow as you scroll through this post – that together convey a sense of just who Ozomatli is and why the group has earned a reputation as one of the country’s most exciting live bands.
We begin with a rare bit of video (below) from an early interview with two of the band’s founding members, Ulises Bella and Raul Pacheco, from the year 2000, just two years after they released their first album and began touring with Carlos Santana, and one year before they would win their first Grammy for the album “Embrace the Chaos.” They talk about the origins of the band and remaining true to their artistic vision in the music industry:
On their official website, Ozomatli describes their evolution over the ensuing years:
When they were formed, Ozomatli symbolized an emerging, multicultural Los Angeles. Over the years Ozomatli has become the ultimate jam band, pulling together the strands of creativity into a unique rhythmic machine. And learning to live together, like the city they represent, has made their music even stronger. “We’ve worked hard to create a space for ourselves, our own place in the sun, so to speak,” said guitarist and composer Raúl Pacheco.
The video below, filmed by a concertgoer, captures the spirit of an Ozomatli live performance and the “unique rhythmic machine” they have constructed. Here they perform their hit “After Party” at the 2007 Alameda County Fair:
The band continued to grow and evolve, picking up their second Grammy in 2005 for the album “Street Signs” and embarking on a multitude of new roads together ever since, some of which included some truly unexpected turns. From their website:
Ozomatli also recently became the first band to be asked to speak at the TED Conference, sharing their ideas about music and identities in the global age. In the band’s nearly twenty years together, they have toured internationally, collaborated with the Boston and New York Pops orchestras, and served as Cultural Ambassadors for the U.S. State Department.
Ulises Bella and Raul Pacheco, joined by the band’s bassist Wil-Dog Abers, reflected on their first 15 years in an interview with BETA TV from 2011:
We are thrilled to have Ozomatli join us for the Concert for Fair Food. The CIW’s founding theory of social change is well-known to longtime readers of this site: Consciousness + Commitment = Change. That theory has been tested now for two decades in some of the toughest fields this country has to offer, and it has proven, time and time again, to hold true.
Ozomatli’s history and body of work — the band’s birth in a struggle for workers’ rights, its twenty year track record of unity and fidelity to a shared vision of social justice, its sheer joy in celebrating a unique brand of cultural eclecticism — are testament to the fact that the same theory holds true in the world of music, too. It will be an honor to share the stage with them in St. Petersburg this March 21. We hope you can join us.
And to make your decision even easier, we leave you with one more short video, Ozomatli performing its hit “Saturday Night” on the 2010 Warped Tour:
See you in St. Pete!