Ozomatli, in their own words…

Share Button


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!

Grammy-winners Ozomatli, La Santa Cecilia to headline CIW’s Concert for Fair Food!

Grammy Award-winning artists/longtime social activists set to perform at March 21st concert… In 1995, an unknown farmworker organization by the inelegant name of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers exploded onto the scene with a community-wide general strike in Immokalee, Florida.  Taking over the central parking lot in town where workers would gather before dawn in search of day labor (below, right), thousands of farmworkers came together to disrupt decades of farmworker poverty and abuse and to launch a call for “Dignity, Dialogue, and a Fair Wage.”  The struggle born that day would eventually give rise to the Campaign for Fair Food in 2001, and […]

Read More »

Bits and pieces from the Fair Food front as preparations ramp up for next month’s big action!

As we round the bend into the final month of preparations before the Parade and Concert for Fair Food, farmworkers in Immokalee and their allies around the county are keeping the pressure up in the fight for fundamental human rights in the fields!  Here below is a quick round-up of the latest news from the Fair Food front, just enough to hold you over until next week’s big reveal of the lineup of award-winning artists for the March 21 concert. Food Chains still making waves… Though the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences chose a different film to receive the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature this […]

Read More »

Wendy’s gets no love from the #FairFoodNation on Valentine’s Day…

Fair Food activists flood Wendy’s with broken-hearted selfies, calls to join the Fair Food Program! Last month, the Alliance for Fair Food (AFF) launched a call for a national Valentine’s Day Weekend of Action, demanding that Wendy’s, the final fast-food hold-out, join the award-winning Fair Food Program.  And last weekend, hundreds of members of the exciting new Alliance took the call to action to heart.  From Denver to DC, regional Fair Food Committees broke out the art supplies and unleashed their boundless creativity to make their voices heard inside Wendy’s corporate headquarters once again. The AFF did a wonderful job of compiling all the weekend’s action, and you can […]

Read More »

NOW LIVE: Concert & Parade for Fair Food website up and running…

It is that time of year again!  The scent of orange blossoms fills the air and the temperatures are rising here in Florida, while up north, the last snows of the season stubbornly ensnare the world in winter’s icy grip.  That can only mean one thing: Time for the Fair Food Nation to head south and gather with workers from Immokalee for its annual spring action! With just over one month to go before the big Concert & Parade for Fair Food, CIW members and their allies are hitting the road, crisscrossing the state and beyond — touring throughout the Northeast, across the Midwest, […]

Read More »

“This Human Rights Group Is A Model For How The U.S. Can End Slave Labor…”

Huffington Post highlights CIW’s Presidential Medal, model for ending slave labor; Wendy’s campaign starts heating up for Valentine’s Day! Today, we bring you two quick hits from the Fair Food front!   First up, the Huffington Post just published an excellent piece on the CIW’s fight to end modern-day slavery, prompted by last month’s big White House news.  The article lays out the unprecedented results of the Fair Food Program, then goes on to break down the model itself, which offers a blueprint for the prevention of slavery, sexual violence, and other systemic abuses in low-wage industries.  Here below is a brief excerpt (though we strongly […]

Read More »

Have a heart, Wendy’s! Valentine’s Day Weekend of Action around the corner…

The Fair Food Nation gets creative this Valentine’s Day! Across the country, storefronts are filling up with red hearts, chocolates, and roses.  And, of course, the fast food chain Wendy’s isn’t missing out on the advertising hook, inviting couples to celebrate their romance with an ice-cold frosty or a square burger.   Meanwhile, ever creative in its own right, the Fair Food Nation is crafting its own colorful Valentines message for the reluctant object of its affection.  But rather sending a love note, Fair Food activists are sending Wendy’s a clear call to action: Stop breaking our hearts, Wendy’s!  Join the Fair Food Program! To make […]

Read More »

Watch out, Wendy’s! #BootTheBraids “Food Chains” tour hits the road…

Students throughout the Midwest, Northeast readying to Boot the Braids!    Hot on the heels of an exciting first month of the new year for the Fair Food Program (January began with the announcement of the newest Fair Food Agreement and ended with the CIW receiving a presidential medal for its efforts to combat modern-day slavery), the Campaign for Fair Food is hitting the ground running this February!   Earlier this week, the Student/Farmworker Alliance launched a tour across the Midwest and Northeast to call out Wendy’s, the final fast food hold out, for refusing to join the Fair Food Program.  And the Immokalee crew won’t be […]

Read More »

Reactions to Presidential Medal nod to CIW history, power of Fair Food Program…

From the mainstream media to the blogosphere to twitter, news of the CIW’s reception of the Presidential Medal for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking traveled far and wide last week, and we’ve collected some of the highlights for you here. Let’s start with the Ft. Myers News-Press, the paper of record for the Fair Food movement.  The News-Press went straight to a source — former Chief Assistant US Attorney Doug Molloy — who has not only known the CIW’s work for the better part of two decades but was the prosecutor that helped bring several slavery rings to justice in collaboration with […]

Read More »

CIW receives Presidential Medal for Extraordinary Efforts in Combatting Modern-Day Slavery at White House Forum!

Sec. Kerry: “This is an extraordinary accomplishment, and reminds all of us not just of the work that we have to do, but that dedicated individuals, like those here with us today from the Coalition, can strike out against injustice, break down barriers, and make a world of difference.” Yesterday was a landmark day in the history of CIW’s fight for farm labor justice. Twenty years ago, workers rose up in the fields and in the dusty streets of a dirt-poor town by the strange name of Immokalee to demand an end to the systematic violation of their fundamental human rights.  The CIW was born […]

Read More »

SPRING ACTION ANNOUNCED! Join CIW for Fair Food Parade, Concert on March 21st!

“…we are going to continue to stand up for what is right. Fear not, we’ve come too far to turn back… we are not afraid and we shall overcome.” — Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Between the astonishingly powerful film “Selma“ in theaters this month, and the celebrations taking place across the U.S. today, Dr. King’s legacy is all around us.  And his message is as relevant today as it was fifty years ago: The arc of the moral universe may indeed bend toward justice, but it doesn’t bend of its own accord.  It takes the creative, untiring action of countless ordinary people […]

Read More »

Big, big news out of the Fair Food Nation…

Youth, faith, food movement allies come together under a single flag, form the new Alliance for Fair Food! Student/Farmworker Alliance, Interfaith Action and Just Harvest USA unite in one vibrant, diverse ally network ready for the next phase in the fight for Fair Food… The Alliance for Fair Food is back and better than ever!  But before we tell you about this exciting new development in the Fair Food movement, let’s first take a quick look back at its roots. “There is today a human rights crisis in the fields…” For longtime members of the Fair Food Nation, the Alliance […]

Read More »

ANALYSIS: The Fresh Market agreement, the LA Times series, and the preferential option for Fair Food…

Fair Food Program in Florida’s tomato industry points the way for Mexican produce industry out of human rights crisis toward 21st century social responsibility;  The question remains: Given Mexico’s deeper societal problems, is reform even possible? We’d like to begin this post with something a bit different, a real time anecdote straight from the Fair Food Program’s data base.  The data base is a rich, unparalleled compilation of information about he Florida tomato industry compiled over time through worker complaints, interviews, and investigations.  This January 6th, a woman called the CIW, not with a complaint, but with a comment, which happens […]

Read More »

BREAKING NEWS: Fresh Market signs Fair Food agreement with CIW!

Fresh Market: “We continuously look for ways to source the best products, and being a part of the FFP helps us to know we are sourcing from growers whose practices are fair and socially responsible…” Agreement breaks important ground with two critical new provisions — increased purchases from Florida growers and commitment to support the Fair Food Standard Council’s work monitoring and enforcing the Fair Food Code of Conduct! We will bring you more analysis of this important new agreement — the thirteenth Fair Food agreement with a major retail food corporation and fourth in the  supermarket industry — in the days […]

Read More »

Newsweek: “The Fair Food Program Should Be Extended to Mexico”…

This month’s LA Times investigative series, “Product of Mexico: Hardship on Mexico’s farms, a bounty for U.S. tables,”  sent shockwaves through the food industry with its explosive, multi-media documentation of appalling abuses on Mexican produce farms ranging from widespread child labor to modern-day slavery.  Given the key role Mexican produce exports have come to play in the US food market over the past two decades — with Mexican tomatoes, for example, found today on everything from fast-food burgers and subs to salad plates in celebrity chef restaurants from LA to New York City — the full fallout from the series is yet to be seen. […]

Read More »

Recent news archives »