Al Borde talked to Ulises Bella, the man behind the saxophone and clarinet of Los Angeles’ eclectic group Ozomatli, all about their upcoming material Nonstop: Mexico → Jamaica and even touched about the political climate.
The modern Latin six-piece band has been working their way throughout the map, preparing themselves for the launch of their newest album and their upcoming shows.
So what’s Ozomatli’s innovation this time around? Well, it has to do with Juan Gabriel mixed with reggae!
About Nonstop: Mexico → Jamaica: the inspiration, the selection process and working with Sly & Robbie:
Their upcoming studio album Nonstop is a Jamaican and reggae cover work inspired by contemporary Mexican hits such as “El Noa Noa” by Juan Gabriel. The idea for this project came up after hearing such a great response from a casual “Tragos Amargos” by Ramon Ayala cover they performed during a show – but with a reggae twist to it. After that adrenaline, the creativity came upon them. “Our percussionist, Justin, was like ‘Hey man, wouldn’t it be cool if we took really famous Mexican songs and flipped it reggae style?’” And so they did.
The band later recorded 22 songs from old to new – ranging from ‘Quinceañera’ songs to the common songs you frequently hear, including “La Bamba” which ended up as the advanced taste for their album. The highlight of this song was the verse by Slightly Stoopid, which is Uli’s favorite part of the track. As for their Juan Gabriel cover, Uli simply says:
“You can’t have a collection of Mexican music and NOT have JuanGa, ya know?”
The album was produced by reggae legends Sly & Robbie, “They were the ones that really gave it that touch that really took it to another level,” Uli said, “You’d be impressed at the depths of their work – they’ve produced bands like No Doubt and The Rolling Stones, you name it!”
…And about our political state:
The discussion about our political state is not something we can overlook. As music makers, inspiration comes from all over the place including what’s on the news.
“It’s interesting because this is the most Spanish we’ve had in an album. I don’t know if this is a subconscious protest to what’s been going on – with the fear and hate that’s been directed to imigrantes, and the threat of deportation and the ACTUAL deportation of our residents – we have a history of political and social movements,” Uli said. “For some of us (musicians) it’s business as usual. The country has been in a state of war for I don’t know how long; I think the difference is the hypocrisy and the level of ineptitude. It also seems that there’s a layer of racism that’s mixed in there too; it’s really changed the climate of the country for the worse. The thing we can do (as musicians) is inspire, unite and definitely try to put a front to what’s going on.”
Catch Ozomatli live at The Troubadour in Los Angeles on May 2nd, and as headliners at The Eclectic, the South Pasadena’s Music Festival and Art Walk on Saturday, May 6 (where they will be performing two slots!).
Nonstop: Mexico → Jamaica will be available on May 5.
Connect with Ozomatli:
Photo courtesy of Cynthia Perez.