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CD Review
Ozomatli- Live at the Fillmore (CD/DVD)
by Arya Chowdhury
Staff Writer


  OK OK, so when people hear the term "hip-hop", more often than not, pictures of mainstream rap artists such as 50 Cent and Nelly come to mind; quicker than, say- Mos Def or Common. Likewise, when people hear the term "Latin music", more often than not, pictures of Ricky Martin and J-Lo shaking their bon-bons terrorize the average listener. It's a shame really, because personally, I find there is a treasure trove of good music hiding right below most superficial mainstream representations. For instance, while I cannot say that I am a huge Creed fan, I do not think that every rock band sounds like them (although radio might try to convince you otherwise).

  So, Ozomatli is such a band to combine not only the immediacy and flow of hip-hop with the pulsating soul of Latin music while sounding nothing like the TRL derivatives of the respective idioms. The band combines the seemingly requisite guitar-bass-drums combo with percussionists, horn players, a couple rappers, and DJ Spinobi (with a name like that, it has to be good) on turntables. This latest release chronicles their live performance at the Fillmore in San Francisco to an especially receptive crowd. The concert opens with the adrenalin-pumping "Dos Cosas Ciertas", and be forewarned: This most likely will make you get up and dance. If you do not have the proper instincts or training to dance, you might embarrass yourself and loved ones playing this song in public. When the rap verse begins, "Don't push me; I'm close to the edge; got me tripping like running track on two left legs", the transition is effortless that you have no time to decide whether or not you like the rap. Then, when you have them pegged as being able to switch between just hip-hop and Latin, the next song "Believe" (no, not that Cher song!) opens with Indian-laced tonality (phrygian dominant for all the band geeks). It then builds to incorporate horns, wah'ed guitar, and turntables. The most beautiful part: none of it sounds forced or gimmicky.

  The wonderful part is that at an Ozomatli concert, divisions between different people (be it by race, gender, social class, dance ability) seem to evaporate, and everyone locks into that Úlan vital that is the soundtrack to perhaps the best dance party that ever existed. OK, I'll admit; I haven't been to an Abba or Aaron Carter concert, so perhaps my pronouncement is a little premature. Also, the divisions between music genres likewise disappear, so all you are left with is, simply, good music.

  Since albums are generally more layered than live performances, there are some nuances that aren't captured quite the same way when performed for an audience. For instance, the opening of the song "Eva" on their first studio release features castanets that provide a nice flavor to the track in general, whereas live, they substituted tambourines and handclaps. Yes, I realize that this is perhaps going too far into the minutiae of the arrangements, and if I saw them live, I probably wouldn't catch it on first listen. On the other hand, "Chango" from the same album sounds infinitely cooler to me live with its frenetic pace finding a good home in the Fillmore, as well as having a wonderful reggae/dancehall breakdown towards the end.

  The scene police might pull this band over for not being hood enough or not being authentic Latin enough, but if you are simply interested in good music and have an open mind, then you will get a lot out of Ozomatli, both on disc and in concert. Just make sure you're not driving when you decide to "interpret" Darren's Dance Grooves when you pop this into the CD player.
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