buttonOzomatli @ Shinjuku Liquid Room(14th March '02)

Multi-ethnic Music-monsters, Ozomatli!

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I'm glad I can type this review, rather than report it live, with a mike in my hand. If that was the case, I'd have to use my voice, which is completely shot now from shouting, singing and screaming my way through a scorching Ozomatli set last Thursday. My arms and legs are sore, as well, from dancing and flailing my body across the floor with a couple hundred more fans did when Ozo set it off and never let up from the moment they entered the building.

Notice I said "entered the building" as opposed to "the stage". That's because they began their revelry outside, next to the bar and coin lockers, with each member armed with drums, cowbells and various other percussive instruments. In they came, like a wandering carnival parade, through the doors and straight into the center of the crowd, where they remained playing until they had the whole place hopping. Now remember kids, they haven't even hit the stage yet!

When this LA-based 8-piece finally ascended to the conventional performing area, they launched into a non-stop barrage of material from both their self-titled debut and their most recent effort, Embrace The Chaos. One of the most memorable introductory numbers was "O Le Le" with trumpeter/vocalist Asdru Sierra showing he has the lung capacity of a cyclone. As MC Kanetic Source bust in with rhymes, Siera's trumpet wove in and out of a trombone solo, creating an amazing interplay between the two.

The flow never subsided, as one number slid into the next, with their signature mixing of Latin rhythms and harmonies with rock, hip-hop, and world beat. The resulting blend was so intoxicating it forced everyone in the place onto their feet and out on the floor for more than two hours of jumping, clapping and dancing. And I think I have already mentioned the hooting and hollering. You have to hand it to any band that can get 300-400 Japanese folks screaming Spanish lyrics at the top of their lungs.

The guys in Ozomatli are complete showmen. Whether they're dancing in formation a la Earth, Wind and Fire or leaping into the audience for a howling guitar solo, these boys know how to work a crowd. To be honest, at an Ozomatli show, you almost feel like a member of the band, with the members using body language to play us like an instrument through clapping, singing and synchronized jumping.

And these boys can damn-well play! My jaw dropped more than once as I watched members like Ulises Bella switch from the sax to the keys to the clarinet to the guitar. One solo followed another, as we stared slack-jawed at both trombone and timbales rip it up.

Although the entire show felt like one long highlight, some more memorable moments would have to be their song, "Eva", off the first album. As the DJ carved out a beat line, guitarist/vocalist Raul Pachero banged the strings and belted out the chorus, while the entire crowd echoed his refrain.

At one point, tabla player Jiro Yamaguchi shyly aked the crowd how many of them had seen the Ozo shows at FujiRock '00 or the Asagiri festival, and a sea of hands shot up. It seems that a majority of people there weren't first-timers like myself. And who can blame them for coming back? Once you have seen Ozo live, you count the days until their return. At least I know I will.

As the set wound towards a close, bassist and founder of Ozomatli, Will-dog Abers, gave his crew a knowing wink and cranked into a riff I knew from somewhere, but couldn't place. It took only the first few words to refresh my memory: "We're not Gonna take it, NO! We ain' t gonna take it..." Twisted Sister? Classic. Who would have thought.

Then it was back into the crowd, as these LA homeboys strapped on their drums, bells and whistles to once more leap off the stage and into the thick of the onlookers to play for another fifteen minutes. No kidding. For fifteen minutes, they cranked through latin polyrhythms, banging the snares and cowbells and blowing whistles, only to stop for the trombone and trumpet to lay down another melody (two of which were Black Sabbath and Outcast, if you can believe that). Everyone danced in a circle around them, as if they were some sort of witchdoctors, chanting for rain.

Then, just as they entered, they exited the room, dancing and strutting their way back to the green room, leaving all of us in the crowd trying to wipe the sweat and the grins off our faces.

As I write this, these Multi-ethnic music-monsters should just be about ready to perform in Osaka. If I wasn't already shattered from the Shinjuku Liquid Room show in Tokyo, I'd be on the first Shinkansen down there, no doubt. But no, for now, I'll rest up, and polish my dancing shoes for the next time the big "O" rolls into town.
report by jinki and photos by hanasan

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buttonmag files : Ozomatli

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The latest album


"Embrace the Chaos"(US import)

previous works


"Ozomatli"(US import)

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