Friday, November 19, 2010

"All Around the World" by Ozomatli

The following snippets of information about the band Ozomatli comes from their website

In their fourteen years together as a band, celebrated Los Angeles culture-mashers Ozomatli have gone from being hometown heroes to being named U.S. State Department Cultural Ambassadors.

In 2007, the reach and power of that voice went to new global heights. The band had long been a favorite of international audiences-playing everywhere from Japan to North Africa and Australia-and their music had always been internationalist in its scope, seamlessly blending and transforming traditions from Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East (what other band could record a song once described as “Arabic jarocho dancehall”?), but last year, they entered the global arena in a different way.

They were invited by the U.S. State Department to serve as official Cultural Ambassadors on a series of government-sponsored international tours to Asia, Africa, South America, and the Middle East, tours that linked Ozomatli to a tradition of cultural diplomacy that also includes the esteemed likes of Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and Louis Armstrong.

In places like Tunisia, India, Jordan, and Nepal, Ozo didn’t just play rousing free public concerts, but offered musical workshops and master classes and visited arts centers, summer camps, youth rehabilitation centers, and even a Palestinian refugee camp. They listened to performances by local musicians and often joined in for impromptu jam sessions with student bands and community musicians. Most shows ended up with kids dancing on stage and their new collaborators sitting in for a tabla solo or a run on the slide guitar.

In the case of Nepal, the band’s trip was part of a celebration of the country’s newly ratified peace accord and they arrived with a direct message: “different instruments but one rhythm, together we can make a prosperous Nepal.” Their concert, which drew over 14,000 people, was a historic one-Ozo were the first Western band to do a concert in Nepal and the event was the country’s first peaceful mass gathering that was not a protest or religious ceremony.

For the U.S Embassy in Nepal, Ozomatli were a model of how diversity promotes change. According to an official embassy release, “Ozomatli is living proof that diverse backgrounds make a stronger and more prosperous whole. Ozomatli’s nine members are committed to addressing social issues of local, national and international importance and they use the power of their own diversity to achieve this.”

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