In their fourteen years together as a band, celebrated Los Angeles culture-mashers Ozomatli have gone from being hometown heroes to being named U.S. State
Department Cultural Ambassadors. Their music-- a notorious urban-Latino-and-beyond collision of hip hop and salsa, dancehall and cumbia, samba and funk, merengue and comparsa, East LA R&B and New Orleans second line, Jamaican ragga and Indian raga-- has long followed a key mantra: it will take you around the world by taking you around L.A.
Originally formed to play at an area labor protest over a decade ago, Ozomatli spent some of their early days participating in everything from earthquake prep "hip hop
ghetto plays" at inner-city L.A. elementary schools to community activist events, protests, and city fundraisers. Ever since, they have been synonymous with their city:
their music has been taken up by The Los Angeles Dodgers and The Los Angeles Clippers.
Ozo is also a product of the city’s grassroots political scene. Proudly born as a multi- racial crew in post-uprising 90s Los Angeles, the band has built a formidable reputation over four full-length studio albums and a relentless touring schedule for taking party rocking so seriously that it becomes new school musical activism.
They were invited by the U.S. State Department to serve as official Cultural Ambassadors on a series of government-sponsored international tours to Asia, Africa, South America, and the Middle East, tours that linked Ozomatli to a tradition of cultural diplomacy
In the case of Nepal, the band’s trip was part of a celebration of the country’s newly ratified peace accord and they arrived with a direct message: “different instruments but one rhythm, together we can make a prosperous Nepal.” Their concert, which drew over 14,000 people, was a historic one—Ozo were the first Western band to do a
concert in Nepal and the event was the country’s first peaceful mass gathering that was not a protest or religious ceremony. According to an official embassy release, “Ozomatli is living proof that diverse backgrounds make a stronger and more prosperous whole. Ozomatli’s nine members are committed to addressing social issues of local, national and international importance and they use the power of their own diversity to achieve this.”
“I’ve always felt that music is the key to every culture, the beginning of an understanding,” says vocalist and trumpet player Asdru Sierra. “It’s a language far more universal than politics.”