Ozomatli is one of the most extraordinary acts in the music industry. The Latino-flavored urban rock fusion band has been performing inspirational music for the past fifteen years, making fans out of millions around the world -- including mainstream superstar Jack Johnson and guitar legend Carlos Santana.
The Los Angeles collective has also toured all around the globe, participating in humanitarian outreach programs in the countries they visit and offering musical workshops along the way.
They will perform live online for the Red Bull Live Sessions on Wednesday, May 4. Before you tune in, check out our top 5 list of must-hear Ozomatli songs:
5. Cumbia de los Muertos
Ozomatli’s official introduction to the commercial market was in 1998 when they dropped their self-titled debut album. “Cumbia de los Muertos,” one of the many tracks on the album that encourages social unity, nicely displays their style.
It’s a digestible reggae rock composition with Spanish-rapped lyrics, which details the story of spirits meeting one another and dancing in harmony. Also making an appearance on the record is Chali 2na of Jurrasic 5, an early (and now former) member of Ozomatli. This was just the starting point for the Los Angeles music juggernaut and their sound would become more refined in the years to come.
4. (Who Discovered) America?
Basically, any song off Ozomatli’s third studio album Street Signs is worth checking out. After all, the collection -- which was released in 2004 -- won the Grammy Award for Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album in 2005. Out of all the 13 tracks on the full-length effort, however, “(Who Discovered)” America?” is an absolute gem.
This record isn’t a history lesson or a waltz down memory lane, but more of a brilliant story with poetic imagery that puts a totally different spin on finding one’s true America.
3. Can’t Stop
It’s difficult to write a good dancehall sensation with a positive message. Most hip-hop artists attempt it and fail miserably. But with “Can’t Stop” off Ozomatli’s fourth studio album Don’t Mess With The Dragon, the LA troupe succeeds where so many others have epically failed.
Other than dancing your worries away, this urban cabaret promotes focusing on the present instead of reflecting on the mistakes that were made yesterday. As Ozomatli encourages in the club banger, you “can’t stop now, got to keep it movin’.” That truth within itself is simply uplifting.
2. City Of Angels
One of the cornerstones of Ozomatli’s identity has always been Los Angeles, and their hometown pride has been exemplified on a plethora of jams -- especially on “City Of Angels,” a single from 2007’s Don’t Mess With The Dragon.
Really, this has to be one of the liveliest records to have been released in the past ten years. The horns are jazzy, the guitars are a bit bluesy, the hooks have an energetic choir feel and that bass -- well, the bass is absolutely thunderous. Hometown anthems are supposed to motivate the city, and this is the type of motivational banger that will unite a community.
1. It’s Only Paper featuring Jack Johnson
When the seven-piece was recording their fifth studio album, Fire Away, in 2010, at Jack Johnson’s studio Brushfire in Los Angeles, the singer-songwriter insisted on recording a song with them.
That song turned out to be “It’s Only Paper,” a mellow island-flavored composition about how money isn’t the most important treasure in the world and that dollars bills are merely paper. It’s well-written philosophical record and truly shows how Ozomatli’s songwriting has matured since their humble beginnings just fifteen years earlier.
Catch Ozomatli performing live at redbullusa.com/livesessions on May 4, 2011
For more from Bear Frazer follow him on Twitter: @BearFrazer