The versatile Grammy Award winning band Ozomatli was founded in 1995 and enjoyed mainstream success with their eponymous debut album in 1998. They went on to receive Grammy Awards for their next two releases, “Embrace the Chaos” (2001) and “Street Signs” (2004). The band also picked up a Latin Grammy Award for the latter. “Don't Mess with the Dragon” and “Fire Away” followed in 2007 and 2010, respectively. Current members of the band include Wil-Dog Abers, Raúl Pacheco, Justin 'El Niño' Porée, Asdrubal Sierra, Ulises Bella, Jiro Yamaguchi and Mario Calire.
Childhood and Family:
Ozomatli was formed in 1995 in Los Angeles, California. The band derived their name from an Indian word for the Aztec astrological symbol of the monkey, which is also a god of music, dance, fire, and the new harvest. The band has had various changes in its lineup, but kept a core of six members that includes Asdru Sierra (lead vocals, trumpet), Raul Pacheco (lead vocals, guitar, tres, jarana), Justin Poree (rap vocals, percussion), Wil-Dog Abers (bass, backup vocals), Jiro Yamaguchi (tabla, percussion, backup vocals) and Ulises Bella (sax, clarinet, requinto jarocho, keyboards, backup vocals). Ozomatli's members met through their association with the Peace and Justice Center of Los Angeles. They made their live debut in front of protesters during a strike.
Embrace the Chaos
Ozomatli began making a name for themselves on the local club circuit in Los Angeles. After the addition of MC Chali 2na, turntablist Cut Chemist, drummer William Marrufo, and sax player Jose Espinoza, the band made an appearance on the late night talk show “Vibe” and began their recording career by releasing the album “Ozomatli” on June 16, 1998, on the Almo Sounds label. Produced by Ozomatli and T-Ray, the album rose to No. 7 on the Billboard Latin Albums chart and No. 4 on the Billboard Latin Pop Albums chart and spent 71 and 50 weeks on these charts, respectively. The album also peaked at No. 25 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart. Two singles released from the album were “Cut Chemist Suite” (April 1999) and “Super Bowl Sundae” (May 1999).
On September 11, 2001, Ozomatli released a follow up called “Embrace the Chaos” under Interscope Records. The album went to No. 1 on the Billboard Latin Albums and the Billboard Latin Pop Albums charts and No. 2 on the Billboard Heatseekers. It also made an appearance on the Billboard 200, where it peaked at No. 138. The album won a 2002 Grammy for Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album.
DJ Cut Chemist left the band shortly after the release of the first album and was replaced by Kid WIK. Chali 2na later quit to focus on the hip-hop outfit Jurassic 5 and chose Kanetic Source as his replacement. Kanetic Source, Kid WIK, Jose Espinoza, and William Marrufo all left during the production of the second album, but Source continued to tour with the band as a guest. The band then recruited drummer Andy Mendoza.
Ozomatli released an EP called “Coming Up” in 2003. Mario Calire replaced Andy Mendoza on drums for the EP. The band also added trombone player Sheffer Bruton and turntablist DJ Spinobi. Although Kinetic Source was listed as an official member, he originally only provided a few rap vocals on this release.
On June 22, 2004, the band launched the studio album “Street Signs” under Concord Records. Recorded with Wil-Dog Abers, Ulises Bella, Sheffer Bruton, Mario Calire, DJ Spinobi, Jabu, Raúl Pacheco, Justin Porée, Asdru Sierra and Jiro Yamaguchi, the album rose to No. 2 on the Billboard Latin Albums and the Billboard Latin Pop Albums and appeared on Billboard's Heatseekers. It also peaked at No. 125 on the Billboard 200. “Street Signs” won a 2005 Grammy for Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album and a 2005 Latin Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album. The album yielded two singles with “Saturday Night” and “Santiago.”
On August 23, 2005, Ozomatli resurfaced with the live album “Live at the Fillmore,” which was recorded at The Fillmore in San Francisco. It was released through Concord Records. The fourth studio album, “Don't Mess with the Dragon,” followed on April 3, 2007. By this time, DJ Spinobi had left the band and in September 2007, MC Jabu officially departed the band and was replaced by Tre Hardson. Hardson, however, left the band after making his recording debut with the band on “Can't Stop The Blue” (2008), a song for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Sheffer Bruton was then replaced by Mario Calire on drums.
Ozomatli released the album “Fire Away” on April 20, 2010, with Downtown/Mercer Street. It produced two singles with “Elysian Persuasion” (released in April 2010) and “Gay Vatos In Love” (released in May 2010). In addition, Ozomatli collaborated with other artists and was featured on the song “One of these Days” on Santana's album “Shaman” (2002). They also worked with Kumbia Kings on the song “Mi Gente,” which was included in “Kumbia Kings III” and Ozomatli's “Coming Up EP” (2003). In 2005, the band joined artists Jack Johnson, No Doubt, Fishbone, The Ziggens, and Pennywise, among others, to contribute to the Sublime tribute album “Look at All the Love We Found.” Ozomatli performed “April 29, 1992 (Miami)” on the album. Ozomatli also joined forces with Herb Alpert on “Whipped Cream (Anthony Marinelli Remix)” and “Love Potion #9 (Anthony Marinelli Remix)” and Delinquent Habits for “Let The Horn Blow” and “En Este Varrio.”
Grammy: Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album, “Street Signs,” 2005
Latin Grammy: Best Alternative Music Album, “Street Signs,” 2005
Grammy: Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album, “Embrace the Chaos,” 2002