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January 31, 2013
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Ozomatli: World music ambassadors bring musical fusion to Grass Valley

Power dance-band and cultural ambassadors Ozomatli will perform Friday at The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley.

Local bands Agent 23 and Spends Quality will open.

Ozomatli’s members have always juggled two key identities. They are the voice of their city, and they are citizens of the world. In their 15 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.

Their music — a notorious urban-Latino-and-beyond collision of hip hop and salsa, dancehall and cumbia, samba and funk, merengue and comparsa, East L.A. Rhythm and blues and New Orleans second line, Jamaican ragga and Indian raga — has long followed a key mantra: It will take you around the world by taking you around L.A.

Originally formed to play at a Los Angeles labor protest more than a decade ago, Ozomatli spent some of its early days participating in everything from earthquake prep “hip hop ghetto plays” at inner-city elementary schools to community activist events, protests and city fundraisers. Ever since, it has been synonymous with its city: Its music has been taken up by both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Clippers; the group recorded the street-view travelogue “City of Angels” as a new urban anthem, and it was featured as part of the prominent L.A. figures imaging campaign “We Are 4 L.A.” on NBC and has the distinction of headlining the Hollywood Bowl twice in 2008 and 2010.

In recognition of its efforts toward Los Angeles, the city of Los Angeles officially declared April 23, 2010, as “Ozomatli Day,” as well as every following April 23 in perpetuity. Ozomatli was also a recipient of the 2010 Local Heroes Award by Los Angeles PBS station KCET-TV, recognizing the band’s longstanding accomplishments and community service throughout Southern California.

The band had long been a favorite of international audiences, playing everywhere from Japan to North Africa and Australia, and its music has always been international in its scope, seamlessly blending and transforming traditions from Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East. The members 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.

Ozomatli was honored to help celebrate the Boston Pops’ 125th anniversary, performing songs from the band’s latest release, “Fire Away,” as well as Ozo classics from its previous discs, accompanied by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In November, Ozomatli made an appearance at TEDxSF — the first musical talk ever given at any TED conference — mixing discussion and sound to explore the challenges and promises of musical identities in a global age.

Ozomatli has spent 17 years working diligently to spread its message of peace, communication and understanding through music with a long-standing tradition of performing for children all over the world, from the schools of north St. Louis to the orphanages of Southeast Asia.

Tickets for Friday’s show are $25 for members, $28 for non-members and are available at The Center Box Office, 530-274-8384, ext. 14, at BriarPatch Co-op or online at

For information about the band, visit

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The Union Updated Jan 31, 2013 08:52AM Published Jan 31, 2013 08:52AM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.