Bursting onto the L.A. stage with their first eponymously titled album in June 1998, Ozomatli capitalized on being the talk of the live music scene, particularly their show-stopping gigs at venues such as Dragonfly, Opium Den and The Viper Room. By 1999, they were touring with Carlos Santana and soon won the Grammy for “Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album” for 2001’s EMBRACE THE CHAOS. They repeated history in 2004 by winning again in the same category for their album STREET SIGNS, which also picked up the Latin Grammy for “Mejor Album de Musica Alternativa” in 2005. 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. Watch out for their most recent album, PLACE IN THE SUN, to be released on March, 11, 2014.
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. “We’re coming out with this new record to remind people that we still care about making new music.”
A recurring theme of PLACE IN THE SUN is how the band has learned to deal with life’s responsibilities, struggles, and raising a modern family. (Asdru) Sierra says “Brighter” was written to convey the importance of showing his kids the way through rough patches in life. In fact, the collaboration with Stewart came as a result of the two experiencing fatherhood together. “We met about 12 years ago– our kids were in the same preschool–and we’ve been friends ever since.”
Sierra and Pacheco in particular both feel strongly about balancing parenthood with the rigors of recording and being on the road. Sierra says he wrote the breezy ballad “Only Love” for his wife, who stood by him through their years of marriage. “This album is about growth, as a man, and a father,” said Sierra. “But we’re still striving for that world sound, the real touch with Latin, and hip-hop and everything else we’re doing.”
One of the album’s most powerful songs, “Burn It Down,” offers a significant clue to the band’s past, present and future. Evoking Ozo’s stubborn idealism, the song suggests that battles can be won or lost, but sometimes the best thing is to let it all go and start fresh. “The idea behind that song is that sometimes there’s a point where you just have to burn it down, let it go and move on,” said Pacheco. “The tune was inspired by North African guitarists like Omar Moktar Bombino and it’s the liveliest track on the album. The Band in a room with the record button on!”
The title track, “Place in the Sun,” is a garage-rock homage that pushed them all to think about what the band has accomplished. “I thought, what does it really mean to create your space in this world?” Pacheco asked, and together, the band found the answer. “For us it means the work it takes, the struggle it takes and the joy we had once we got it.”