A Heart to Heart with Ozomatli

With a positive outlook, honorable intentions, and an unquenchable thirst for ambition, good things always come. In this case, the result comes in the form of a revolutionary new breed of music that easily satiates the parched throats of a mass public begging for something finally worth listening to. Something timeless…something that isn't processed, treated, canned and then sold at a record store near you. They want original…exciting…fun …happy…something to connect with, that will 'move' them in every aspect of the word…their minds …tastes …souls…their behinds. What I am talking about now is what Carlos Santana has already dubbed as 'the future of music'. The entity I am talking about is none other than…Ozomatli.

Recently, I had the chance to speak with Ozomatli member Ulises, the man behind the tenor sax, guitar, clarinet, and vocals of the 10-piece band that includes a mixture of musicians and friends of Chicano, Black, White, and Asian descent. A perfect serving from the melting pot that is Los Angeles. Ulises immediately took control of the conversation with a sense of anticipation and desire to talk that was rivaled only by my own excitement at this priceless opportunity.

They wanted nothing more than to show that there is no purer or more genuine expression of emotion and humanity than art and the power it has to bring people together. When asked to describe the Ozomatli sound, Ulises summed it up in just two words: "People's music. Our music is about inclusion, not exclusion. We all have a potential…we have the potential for destruction. We can really (mess) things up if we wanted to, and we have the potential to do the opposite, and I think what we want to do is inspire people to do the opposite. Inspire people to reflect on what good they should be doing."

"We've always been a part of playing for benefits and helping different

causes out…of course the war being the big one right now. Ever since September 11, we've taken a stand about how we feel about it. Violence and war is not really ever the answer, especially with the situation that's going on right now. We've been involved in a lot of different organizations, like this one called Not In Our Name, which is a collection of different artists which are trying to unify and make a collective against the war effort. We talk about it at every show, knowutimean. It's about how do we want to live as human beings, how do we want to treat each other as people? Are we motivated by humanity or are we motivated by profit?"

According to Ulises, the idea came from "…a homie that worked at this school up north called the Expression Center. When he started working at this school, he wuz like…'woah, we have the facilities and capabilities to help you guys do a DVD', so we were like 'let's do it!' I mean, the whole process was really cool, we were working with all students and all of a sudden we were like, well let's do the DVD and a live CD, and since it takes us forever to do a record (laughs) we wanted to give something to the fans."

So far they've given plenty, and the band named after the Aztec god of Dance are planning much more. "The sound is always changing. I think partly because of our travels and our experiences. One thing for sure that we've been kinda experimenting with and the band is really into is Arabic music. It's been something that's been sneaking into our sound. It's crazy…their artistry…the manipulations of their tones and (stuff) like that. It blows me away!"

Carlos Santana once advised the band to learn to rely on each other because it's the only thing that will keep them together. As members of the band of humanity, we should all learn to heed to the same advice. It worked for Carlos, it worked for Ozomatli, it can work for us. "Just gotta keep spreading the good…keep playing the jams for the people!"

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