From playing with the NSO POPS to recording kids albums, Ozomatli’s projects are as diverse as the band members’ heritage. Kesta Happening had the opportunity to kick of the New Year chatting with Ulises Bella, saxophonist for Ozomatli. With hard work and innovation, they have reached a generation spanning audience that absorbs their messages of love, hope, and unity.
Kesta: What is it about reaching out to youth that is so important to the band? Why should kids learn to meditate? Is meditation part of life in Ozomatli? What tips can you give to beginners?
Ulises: The discouragement we faced when growing up made us want to be super encouraging to kids and help them know that whether they become artists or musicians, art and music will be super beneficial to their lives. I still consider myself a student of music I’m always learning new stuff. (When) hanging out with kids you get a new approach to it.
With meditation, we try to encourage them to pick up something like that because it’s known to be beneficial for your health mentally and physically. In the band people do their thing, but however people take time to reflect is up to them and we encourage it big time. For me, I would pick a time of the day and made it part of my schedule. Right now I don’t practice as much as I should, but I still find that from sitting (and just thinking) it has helped me in the process of learning.
Kesta: Could you tell us about a firsthand encounter on how music has impacted the life of Ozo?
Ulises: We were in Burma and we were playing orphanages because over there more than 3 people congregated are considered an illegal activity. It’s a bummer. We showed up to this one school and we didn’t know what the deal was. As we walk in we realize it was a school for the blind and boom!, there is this band playing that is out of control good. We asked each other who was playing because we were tripping out. When we go in, it was the school band. They were all blind and were just killing it, they were rippin’! We got onstage and jammed with them to “I just want to say I love you” by Steve Wonder. Playing Stevie Wonder in Burma with blind kids is just crazy. That’s the biggest thing about music; beyond language, people can communicate and connect instantly. It’s a language where we can find the things we both know and communicate with that.
Kesta: What’s up with the Ozo Kids album, what inspired the album? How did the collaboration with “PBS Kids Rock!” come about?
Ulises: Ozo Kids was inspired on many different levels. One, we have always been kinda down with kids and kids dig our music. Two, we realized that a lot of our fans have kids and bring them to the shows or can’t come because of that. And three, we were the Super Music Friends for Yo-Gabba Gabba. When we did that, we just tripped out so hard because it was completely packed and the kids were all into it. It was a different side of Ozomatli, it was a totally different show. It was a no brainer to try and do an album and now we are in the middle of that (project).
With PBS, they offered a couple of options and we finished them real quick and they dug them so they offered us more. We started listening to a lot of School House Rock and decided to Ozofy that. We were more than happy to do those ‘cause anything for PBS is always fun.
Kesta: What upcoming projects can we expect for the New Year?
Ulises: We are going to be working on a legit Ozo record sooner or later. We’re also working on video games like Happy Feet two, Sesame Street and the Sims. We are also starting to branch out in scoring. When people want Ozo, they think of a certain sound but now we have reached a point where we have a whole sound library for cinema purposes. Next year we are going to be doing a whole tour with Gabriel Iglesias.
Luckily for Washingtonians the Ozo crew loves DC and they will be returning on January 21 at the 9:30 Club. Tickets are now available through ticketfly.com. Whether you are an Ozohead or Ozo Kid, Ozomatli always delivers a show to remember. We hope to see you there!
**** Kesta DC and The Incognito Latino send their deepest sympathies to Ulises and his family upon the loss of his grandmother last week.
Ozomatli @ 9:30 Club in Washington DC