You generally don't have to listen too hard to hear what's on the mind of Los Angeles music collective Ozomatli
. The multi-faceted band is rarely subtle in its politics or its incorporation of countless Latin traditions as well as modern rock, jazz, pop and hip-hop. But on the band's third album, Street Signs
, the addition of the Prague Symphony and the distinct influence of Arab and North African music certainly qualify as ambitious curve balls. Announcing its intentions from the get-go, album-opener "Believe" starts with a Rai-style vocal melody before finishing with a gritty rap as Bollywood-style strings provide a sweeping backdrop throughout. Never lingering in one place for long, the band quickly goes from there into some of the catchiest Latin Rock this side of Santana's "Smooth" on such gems as "Love And Hope" and "(Who Discovered) America?" before tearing off in other directions. These fearless hip-hop bambinos truly go their own way, saying what they want, playing what they want. --Tad Hendrickson
In this age of disillusioning politics, my vote goes to the Ozomatli street party. There's no other group that can mix the incongruent ingredients of lyrical defiance, global dance beats, hip-hop attitude and pop hooks so convincingly and explosively.
On their third full-length album to date, the outspoken Los Angelianos have not only expressed their political convictions in text, but have also implied them in their music, marrying their characteristic hard-edged Latino beats for the first time with North African and Arab music. The result is Ozomatli's lushest album to date.
There's a sea of melancholic strings, deep enough to drown in, a tide of tumbling rhythms, and sharp samples that sit at odd angles to create a dizzying tension. Ozomatli seem to have cracked that secret to merging the simple with the sophisticated. Their choruses are charming sing-along rhymes that will repeat themselves endlessly in your head after only one listening. The lyrics are rallying cries to save the world and guard hope, and the musical canvas is rich and luscious and drips with deft mixology.
To perfect their clever craftmanship, the multi-skilled Ozomatli combo has invited a host of stellar guests. Eddie Palmieri works his piano on "Nadie Te Tira", Jurassic 5 MC Chali 2na adds his bass-heavy rapping to the trancy gnawa backing of "Who's to Blame", and Moroccan master musician Hassan Hakmoun graces the elevating "Believe" with his instrumental skills. It's a feast for the ears and a party for the feet. --Katharina Lobeck
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