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Ozomatli is a multiethnic nine piece band, playing primarly Latin, hip-hop, and rock, formed in 1995 in Los Angeles. They are known both for their extremely vocal activist viewpoints and their wide array of musical styles - including salsa, jazz, funk, reggae, and others.
Ozomatli take their name from the Nahuatl word for the Aztec astrological symbol of the monkey, which is also a god of dance, fire, the new harvest, and music.
The members of the band met through their affiliation with the Peace and Justice Center of Los Angeles, and their first performance was for picketers during a strike. They began their career in the Los Angeles and San Diego/Mexico border-area club scene. Following an appearance in Vibe magazine, the group broke into the mainstream, releasing Ozomatli, their self titled debut album, in June 1998 under the Almo Sounds label.
Ozomatli's second album, Embrace the Chaos, was released on the inauspicious date of September 11 2001. Although many American bands cancelled their concerts, Ozomatli gained some recognition for continuing to play their concerts, all the while continuing their commitment to social justice and progressive politics, in addition to the rising anti-war movement. Afterwards, the band made a further commitment to a new direction in music, embracing North African and Arab musical styles in addition to their own.
The musical styles of many cultures are blended on 2004's Street Signs, with vocals mentioning the Yakuza crossing paths with gnawa trance; or Moroccan sintir virtuoso Hassan Hakmoun, joining the band along with Les Yeux Noirs and the Prague Symphony Orchestra. Also accompanying are David Hidalgo of Los Lobos and Mario Calire of The Wallflowers. The salsa pioneer Eddie Palmieri, who is on the Concord Jazz label, is a featured performer on Street Signs.
In 2005, Street Signs won the Grammy Award for Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album.
In late 2006 DJ Spinobi left the band to pursue personal projects, and to date has not been replaced.
April 3, 2007 saw the release of their 4th studio album Don't Mess With The Dragon which was co-produced by KC Porter.
Ozomatli's lineup as of the release of Don't Mess With The Dragon:
* Wil-Dog Abers: Bass, marimbula, background vocals
* Raul 'El Bully' Pacheco: Guitar, tres, jarana, vocals
* Justin 'El Nino' Poree: Percussion, rap vocals
* Asdru Sierra: Trumpet, lead vocals, piano, acoustic guitar
* Ulises Bella: Saxophone, background vocals, requinto jarocho, keyboard, melodica
* Jiro Yamaguchi: Tabla, cajon, assorted percussion and background vocals
* Mario Calire: Drums
* Sheffer Bruton: Trombone
* M.C. Jabu Smith-Freeman: Rap vocals