Gets Phillips Jumping
by Lindsay Crawford
Monday evening, there were two reasons to enjoy life in Oberlin
summer weather and Ozomatli, the Grammy Award-winning Latin
funk band. In their third straight year of touring, Ozomatli, which
is Nahuatl for the Aztec god of dance, has come a long way from
their humble Los Angeles beginnings where they started out playing
local clubs in 1995.
They have spent the last three years touring with the likes of Santana
and Yo La Tengo, doing shows in Europe, Australia, Japan, Mexico
and Cuba. Despite the success and acclaim that the band has acquired,
they still seem comfortable performing in a steamy college gymnasium,
a performance space utterly lacking in good acoustics.
While Ozomatli is best known for their Latin and hip-hop influences,
the band draws on a variety of musical styles for inspiration. The
bands Black-Chicano-Cuban-Japanese-Jewish-Filipino crew has
everything from north Indian classical music training to experience
playing in Irish bar bands. The music contains both electronically
generated salsa loops and live horns, and the band makes use of
percussive instruments from more than five different countries.
With a sound that could best be described as a musical collision,
Ozomatli provides a distinctive listening experience.
Many of the people in attendance at Mondays show in Phillips
had little, if any, experience with Ozomatli. When I glanced
at Oberlin Online I thought they described Ozomatli as a Latin punk
band. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I was mistaken,
junior Alicia Cozza said.
Luckily, Ozomatli is not the kind of band that requires an intimate
knowledge of their music in order to be enjoyed. From the shows
opening, when the band made their way through the room and up onto
the stage playing various percussion instruments and horns, the
audience was already digging their style.
It was difficult to resist the urge to dance, and many an audience
member could be seen vigorously shaking their hips or bobbing their
heads. I had only heard a few of Ozomatlis songs before
going to the concert, junior Emily Barbour said, I went
to the show hoping to dance, and I got my wish they were
Even those who were familiar with Ozomatlis two albums were
impressed with their live show. I knew that I liked the band,
sophomore Lisa Haisfield said, but I had no idea that they
would be so good live.
Phillips Gym may not have been filled to capacity, but Ozomatli
managed to work well with the space and the crowd keeping
the audience members involved in the music and the show. The band
knew exactly how to mix it up, showcasing some of their more hip-hop
oriented tracks like Vocal Artillery to hype up the
crowd, and then bringing things down so everyone could take a break.
It might have been difficult for a band that not everyone was familiar
with to hold peoples interest, but Ozomatli seemed to have
no problems at all.
One of the best parts of Ozomatlis performance was its members
confidence onstage. When the audience got tired from dancing and
had to take a break, the band members would wring out their sweaty
shirts and keep going. They maintained an incredible amount of energy
dancing on stage and interacting with each other. It soon
became clear that Ozomatli actually enjoyed playing for a small
Oberlin crowd. Near the end of the show students got up onstage,
accidentally destroying the stages sound in the process. This
didnt faze the musicians. They came right out into the crowd
and continued playing.
Eventually, the band led everyone out into the lobby, finishing
the show performing a sing-a-long version of the Sesame Street theme
song that would have pleased anyone weaned on public television.
Overall, Ozomatli delivered an excellent performance. Theyre
a band that deserves respect not only for musical talent, but also
for their commitment to activism and politics. It was refreshing
to see a band that wasnt too caught up in its own image to
have fun playing music, or too full of itself to enjoy performing
for a relatively small audience of college students. Hopefully,
next time Ozomatli decides to make an appearance at Oberlin, people
will know that it is an opportunity not to be missed.