In 2005, Street Signs won the Grammy Award for Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album.
In their more than decade together as a band, celebrated Los Angeles culture-mashers Ozomatli have gone from being hometown heroes to being named US State Department Cultural Ambassadors. Ozomatli has always juggled two key identities. They are the voice of their city and they are citizens of the world. Over the years, the band has experienced many member changes, but there are a core of six members who have been featured in all of its lineups: Asdrubal Sierra (lead vocals, trumpet), Raul Pacheco (lead vocals, guitar, tres, jarana), Justin Poree (rap vocals, percussion), Willy ‘Wil-Dog’ Abers (bass, backing vocals), Jiro Yamaguchi (tabla, percussion, backing vocals) and Ulises Bella (sax, clarinet, requinto jarocho, keyboards, backing vocals). Their music can best be described as a collision of urban-Latino, Hip Hop, Salsa, Dancehall, Samba, Funk, East LA R&B, New Orleans Second Line and Jamaican/Indian Raga. Originally formed to play at an area labor protest over a decade ago, Ozomatli spent some of their early days participating in everything from earthquake prep “hip hop ghetto plays” at inner-city L.A. elementary schools to community activist events, protests and city fundraisers. Following an appearance in Vibe magazine, the group broke into the mainstream, releasing Ozomatli, their self-titled debut album, in June 1998 under the Almo Sounds label. Ozomatli’s second album, Embrace the Chaos, was released by Interscope Records in 2001 on the inauspicious date of September 11th. While many American bands were canceling their live engagements, Ozomatli gained recognition for continuing to play their concerts all the while continuing their commitment to social justice and progressive politics. The band released a string of albums with Concord Records including: Coming Up, a limited edition EP, in 2003, Street Signs in 2004, Live At The Fillmore in 2005 and Don’t Mess With The Dragon in 2007.
In 2005, Street Signs won the Grammy Award for Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album. Their music has been taken up by the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Clippers, they recorded the street-view travelogue “City of Angels” in 2007 as a new urban anthem, and most recently, they were featured as part of the prominent L.A. figures imaging campaign “We Are 4 L.A.” on NBC. In 2007, the band’s reach was elevated to new global heights. 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. These tours linked Ozomatli to a tradition of cultural diplomacy that also includes the esteemed likes of Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Louis Armstrong. Since 2007, Ozomatli have continued their global tour schedule, playing everywhere from Japan to North Africa and Australia.