Oh so motley
Salsa-funky Ozomatli blends many cultures into a unified front of danceable activism
“Wil-Dog from Ozo!”
That’s Ozomatli bassist/vocalist Wil-Dog Abers cheerfully checking in for a quick interview between a sound check and a band meeting just before the activist LA salsa/ hip-hop/funk band Ozomatli is scheduled to take the stage in Phoenix, Ariz. Don’t ask what the venue is because it’s not on the group’s Web site and Wil-Dog doesn’t know where he is either.
Ozo is currently on tour in support of its new six-song EP, Coming Up, and its upcoming spring-release CD, Street Signs, on its new label, Concord Records. The group is scheduled to hit CSU, Chico, on Dec. 6, all eight of them: Wil-Dog; Ulises Bella on tenor sax, guitar, clarinet and vocals; drummer Andy Mendoza; Asdru Sierra on trumpet; guitarist Raul Pacheco; Justin “Nino” Poree on percussion; rapper Kanetic Source; and percussionist Jiro Yamaguchi.
Wil-Dog, who has been to Chico more than once with Ozomatli, says about the current tour, “It’s a whole new show. … It’s off the hook! Everybody come out and see it!” They’ll be playing songs from their various CDs, and, “We’re gonna play songs that aren’t even recorded yet. … We’re going back and forward at the same time. Like a rubber band!” He laughs.
“We miss Chico so much,” Wil-Dog goes on. “We love coming there. And everyone is always really cool to us, and they always take us out to eat afterwards.” We both laugh, and then Wil-Dog holds up the phone so I can hear some of his band mates in the background yelling, “Hello, Chico!” and “Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay!!!” Then I get to hear a recording of “Don’t give me no back talk, sucka!”
“Mr. T joined the band,” Wil-Dog explains.
From seeing the band before at Chico State, I know this self-described "polyglot Black-Chicano-Cuban-Japanese-Jewish-Filipino crew" is a whole lot of fun. "Ozomatli" is the Nahuatl word for the Aztec God of Dance, and the band’s music is pretty much guaranteed to get and keep the crowd on its feet and dancing. By the end of the show you might just find yourself in the now-legendary end-of-show samba line snaking through the audience, led by the band members, everyone dance-marching to the infectious Ozo beat.