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Cirque Du Soleil
(Cirque Du Soleil)
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Patricia Barber
(Blue Note)
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Cirque Du Soleil
(Cirque Du Soleil)
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Jim Pearce
“Why I Haven't Got You”
Prairie Dog Ballet
(Oak Avenue Publishing)
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Andy Timmons Band
“Gone (9/11/01)”
(Favored Nations)
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Ralph Towner
Time Line
(ECM Records)
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Anoushka Shankar

Amos Lee
"Arms Of A Woman"
Amos Lee
(Blue Note)

Julius Curcio
"American Pie"
Alligator Shoes
(Electric Roots)
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"Come Alive"
Changing Into Me
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Feature [Issue #6]
Ozomatli: Coming Up?
By Mandana Beigi
Coming Up (CD Street Signs)

With a new record label (Concord Records), a new drummer (Mario Claire from the Wall Flowers) and a new EP, Ozomatli is set to take off for 2004. Their new EP, "Coming Up" is a six-song prelude to their full-length album "Street Signs" due out in the spring of 2004.

Opening the album with "Pensando En Mi Vida", you immediately recognize the memorable beat of Ozomatli, Sierra's unmistakable voice, the saxophone and the trombone, along with the background vocals. This is a song that has Ozomatli written all over it! "Ya Viene El Sol" and "Esa Morena" are both up-beat dance songs, which will soon have a special place in the band's play list at their live performances.

"Coming Up" also introduces Ozomatli's first non-rap song entirely in English; "Let Me Dream" is an effort to broaden and prove the band's ability to communicate with a wider audience. The song may sound more pop-oriented and, perhaps, a bit distant from the familiar sound of Ozomatli, but after hearing it a couple of times, you will definitely grow into it.

A catchy mix of tejano, reggae, cumbia and R&B, "Mi Gente" (My People) is a distinct collaboration with A.B. Quintanilla and the Kumbia Kings telling the tale of Latino immigrants: their struggle and survival in the United States. Continuing on with the social justice and political awareness theme, Ozomatli's final song on "Coming Up" is a moving live performance of "Cumbia De Los Muertos" (one of their most popular and well-known songs from their self-titled debut album released in 1998). Bringing in the melancholic Middle Eastern melody in a pledge for peace, it almost feels like "Cumbia De Los Muertos" has been reborn to take on a new identity in a time where peace and the hope for peace seem far from reality.

At the end, if "Coming Up" is any indication or hint on what we will be hearing on "Street Signs", then I can assure you that Ozomatli's next album will be just as spectacular as their previous two.

We caught up with Ozomatli'z Raul Pacheco (guitar, lead vocals) a couple of weeks before their shows at the House of Blues on Sunset and in Anaheim.

You guys have made a transition in going from a major label to an independent Jazz label. Has this given you more creative freedom?
I think we are always under the same kinds of pressures. But we're happy with our new label. They've been cool…they've been really kind of hands on, which is great. I think we put more pressure on ourselves these days though.

Ozomatli has always been socially/politically active. How have the recent political events influenced the music that is being created by Ozomatli now?
There is a lot of Middle Eastern sound. It's funny because prior to what happened on 9/11 we had been exploring that because we were just into a lot of Middle Eastern pop artists from Algeria and Morroco but at the same time it has a lot to do with what has been happening [in the Middle East].

So, should we be expecting to hear more of that on your next album in 2004?
Definitely. We have two songs on our next album with the Middle Eastern melodies.

You have done your first full-length song in English on your EP. Was this something that you, as a band, had been thinking of doing?
Well, we had thought of doing something like that but we just never really explored it. I think this time, we were really kind of conscious about having a song like "Let Me Dream" because it was something that everyone was lurking about: having difficulties understating and promoting us in different markets and for a larger audience.

Ozomatli now has a new drummer. How's that coming along?
Yeah, his name is Mario Claire and he is an incredible drummer. He used to be in the Wall Flowers. I think it's been exciting for him because his skill level is so much more than he got to utilize with the Wall Flowers because they play straight a-head, you know. We're doing all kinds of different things like Salsa, Merengue and Hip Hop so it's been great with him.

How did that happen? Where you secretly waiting for Mario to leave the Wall Flowers?
You know, when our situation changed in last summer, we just thought of whoever that could handle it and Mario's name came up. Once we had the actual audition, he just blew everybody away. It was an easy decision to make.

The band has this amazingly huge fan base in England and Holland. If there a particular reason as to why Ozomatli is so welcomed and so appreciated by the younger generation in those countries?
I don't know… I think it's because those countries are used to an interchange between different kinds of cultures and languages. In Europe, countries are so close to each other and people know two or three different languages. That's common over there, you know. I think it's because of the closeness of the different cultures. That's the only thing I can guess!

But things have been different with South America. On the one hand, they are so much closer to your music and your message and on the other hand, they are so far from responding to it. What do you think about that?
Yeah, it's true. We've been to Mexico and Cuba but not South America. I think that we just have to play in front of those people. But, because of the structure and the geographical divisions of the record companies we have not had the opportunity to put on a show in Latin America. The South American record divisions only try to promote their own artists. If you are a huge act who, they know will automatically sell, then it's not really an issue for them because they make more money that way! I hope that we get the opportunity to play there one day.

Ozomatli has done a promotion/partnership with Nokia for a downlodable ring tone of "Ya Viene El Sol" and at the same time, the band has been getting a lot of radio play on the most commercial Spanish radio station in L.A., "Super Estralla: 107.1 FM". Are these all steps toward going more mainstream and more commercial?
I think we definitely want to be bigger. Every artist has to deal with that. You have to think, how do you make music that you still like and can fit into the mainstream. We've always felt like we could, but haven't really been able to do that. I think, that's definitely our goal now. It's not our total motivation when we sit down to write music but we are aware of it, you know. It's difficult to always stay at the same level, financially and commercially, and not be discouraged.

Have you ever feared that by going mainstream, you may lose this loyal and unique relationship that you've developed with your fans?
Things will change and I think we've always been prepared for that. I think some of our fans will be upset but at the same time there will be new fans. And that's pretty realistic and normal.

There has been a lot of dispute and disagreement in placing Ozomatli under one musical category. Considering the diverse ethnical backgrounds of the band members, the bilingual lyrics and the ever-changing sound of your music, where would you like to see Ozomatli?
It's funny because that's probably part of why we're not bigger yet. We are not genre and language specific but we'll never change that about ourselves… you just can't. We'll still try to play what feels natural and we figured that for as long as we do that, whether we'll get bigger or not, we'll always be able to play somewhere!

Who are some of the artists that you'd like to work with someday?
There are so many incredible musicians out there. On our next album, we are going to have Eddie Palmieri on a song with us and working with him was a big deal for all of us. He is such an amazing salsa/jazz piano player. So, something like that is a huge and important thing for us.

What are you listening to these days?
Dead Prez. I just bought that CD. I think I like the one before this better. But I just got it and I think I have to listen to it more and get used to it.

What do you hope to see in the future for Ozomatli?
I think that as long as we stay committed to the idea of this band and work towards that, we'll be fine and the other things that come our way, will just be like the icing on the cake, you know. It's more important for us to really stay focused on why we're together and why we still wanna do this. As long as we keep on doing that, we'll survive but the minute we don't, then nothing else matters. A lot has changed but we're still very committed. Labels, no labels… radio, no radio… videos, no videos,…we'll survive all of that if we want to. It's difficult going through changes and rebuilding chemistry with people. That's the most challenging thing that we'll probably face but you also have to accept that as a part of life.

Every chance that we get, we encourage people to speak up against the war because that's where our hearts are right now. We play at the rallies and we speak about it. We are in the process of making a music video for one of our songs called 'America', which will be on our next album. We want to make a video that can raise some questions and show the differences of opinions on the war. You really just have to put yourself out there and a lot of people don't like us because of that but I think we're Ok with it.

Coming Up
Street Signs

Coming Up? Ozomatli Coming Up

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