Ozomatli Hits the Streets of South Pasadena

Guitarist Raul Pacheco talks about band's new CD "Nonstop: Mexico to Jamaica" and headlining The Eclectic, May 6

By Abelardo de la Peña Jr.
Published on LatinoLA: May 4, 2017

Ozomatli Hits the Streets of South Pasadena

Ozomatli is hitting the streets of South Pasadena on Saturday, May 6 to cap a whirlwind of touring and media appearances to celebrate release their new album called "Nonstop: Mexico to Jamaica," produced by legendary musicians Sly and Robbie/

One of LatinoLA's all-time favorites, Ozomatli will open The Eclectic street fest with a performance by Ozokidz at 3 pm on the Gold Line Stage. It's a family-friendly set geared towards children and adults. Ozomatli will close out the 60-act event at 9 pm with an hour-long jam on the same stage, mixing up tunes from their 22-year repertoire along with new material from "Nonstop". The new CD gives classic and iconic Latin songs a reggae twist by re-imagining versions "Bésame mucho," "Noa noa," "Tragos amargos," y "La Bamba."

I first heard Ozo a while back when they opened for legendary salsero Willie Colón at the House of Blues on Sunset where I've bought their self-made 4-song CD and had a chance to shake hands with Raúl Pacheco, one of the founding group members. He contributes guitars, the tres and jarana, and background vocals and composes, too.

We had a brief chat with Raul over the phone last week and he talked about the new CD and more. Here are some highlights, lightly edited for clarity.

"We're releasing the record on Cinco de Mayo. This record is all in Spanish, the most Spanish we've had on one CD. The songs are all done Jamaican style, with lots of percussion.

"We got Sly and Robbie involved as producers. It made a lot of sense. We did it over the Internet. We have studio in Boyle Heights, their studio's in Miami. We went into it with 22 demos. They picked songs, we went back and forth and then approved. We did it that way.

"After 22 years together, the band has gone through whatever differences we have and work together great Now that we're getting older, a lot of little things are not as important. We've learned how to have each other be themselves. The six of us are committed to the band, we're able to work it out. I lot of people could learn from it.

"We all do stuff on our own, too, It's healthy. It helps grow as a musicians.

"LA's Latino music scene is vibrant. There's always a lot of bands, like Chicano Batman, who are continuing the Mexican / Mexican-American / Chicano experience, in all its layers. But each of us makes it distinct.

"The new CD is a culmination of what we've always done. We always throw all kinds of music with lots of variation, including music from Mexico and Jamaica, like calypso, ska, one drop, reggae, dance hall … these songs reference it all. It's been journey. People really love these songs. We let ourselves flow.

"When we were approached to play for the Eclectic Music Festival, we couldn't do it because of our Cinco de Mayo show at the Anaheim House of Blues. But because it sold out, we were able to make it.

"South Pas a unique little spot, we are all connected to it in some way. My two kids both graduated from South Pasadena High School. It's kind of sweet gig, a hometown gig. Come in the morning with kids, stay all day, dance at night."

The Eclectic, South Pasadena's Music Festival and Art Walk, returns for its ninth year on Saturday, May 6 with Grammy-winning band Ozomatli headlining. The band will open the festival at 3 p.m. on the Gold Line Stage under their Ozokidz formation, playing original children's music, and will close the event as the main-stage headliners playing songs from their upcoming album "Nonstop: Mexico to Jamaica," due May 5.

Other musical acts taking part include indie rock band Thorcraft Cobra, which released the critically acclaimed album The Distance in January, rock veteran Tony Gilykson formerly of X and Lone Justice, local favorites Irene Diaz, Shelby Gogreve & Taylor Pen and more. The full festival line-up includes 60 bands performing across 15 stages.

In addition to the five main stages (Gold Line, Eclectic, Carnegie, Emerging, SPARC), musical acts will also take over a variety of venues throughout the city, including Crossings, Griffins of Kinsale, Grassroots Natural Market, Canoe House, Craft Hill, Old Focals, South Pasadena Theatre Workshop, Mix N' Munch, and the South Pasadena Music Center & Conservatory. Other bands may be confirmed closer to event date, so please check the festival website for the latest updates.

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