Sunday, August 5 at 2 p.m.
Stern Grove, 19th Avenue and
Sloat Boulevard, San Francisco
|Latin alternative favorites Ozomatli returned to Stern Grove Festival with their genre-spanning, high-energy sound.|
|Malian hip-hop trio SMOD opened the afternoon.|
In their fourteen years together as a band, celebrated Los Angeles culture-mashers Ozomatli have gone from being hometown heroes to being named U.S. State Department Cultural Ambassadors.
Their musicâ€”an urban-Latino-and-beyond collision of hip-hop and salsa, dancehall and cumbia, samba and funk, merengue and comparsa, East LA R&B and New Orleans second line, Jamaican ragga and Indian raga -- has long followed a key mantra: it will take you around the world by taking you around L.A.
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 hopÂ ghetto plays" at inner-city L.A. elementary schools to community activist events, protests, and city fundraisers. Ever since, they have been synonymous with their city: their music has been taken up by The Los Angeles Dodgers and The Los Angeles Clippers, they recorded the street-view travelogue â€œCity of Angelsâ€ in 2007 as a new urban anthem, and most recently, they were featured as part of the prominent L.A. figures imaging campaign â€œWe Are 4 L.A.â€ on NBC.
In 2007, Ozomatli 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. In places like Tunisia, India, Jordan, and Nepal, Ozo offered musical workshops and master classes and visited arts centers, summer camps, youth rehabilitation centers, and even a Palestinian refugee camp. They listened to performances by local musicians and often joined in for impromptu jam sessions with student bands and community musicians.
In Nepal, the bandâ€™s trip was part of a celebration of the countryâ€™s newly ratified peace accord. Their concert, which drew over 14,000 people, was a historic oneâ€”Ozo were the first Western band to perform a concert in Nepal and the event was the countryâ€™s first peaceful mass gathering that was not a protest or religious ceremony.
â€œIâ€™ve always felt that music is the key to every culture, the beginning of an understanding,â€ says vocalist and trumpet player Asdru Sierra. â€œItâ€™s a language far more universal than politics.â€
Malian group SMOD formed in 1999 with childhood friends Sam (the son of Malian musical duo Amadou and Mariam), Mouzy, Ousco, and Donsky (SMOD is an acronym of their first names). Inspired by early 90â€™s hip-hop icons like Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dogg, Notorious B.I.G, and The Roots, the four friends created their own hybrid sound; they dubbed it â€œAfro-Rap,â€ a melding of afro-centric instrumentation and rhythms with the lyrical flow of American hip-hop.
Mouzy eventually left the band to pursue a solo career in France and SMOD released their debut album in 2002 entitled Dunia Kuntala. The group followed up in 2004 with the album Ta i tola, featuring collaborations with Amadou & Mariam, Manu Chao, King Massassi, and Kisto Dem.
SMOD performed for the opening and closing ceremonies of the African Cup of Nations event and in a number of Malian and international festivals. SMOD toured Europe in 2008, supporting TourÃ© Kinda, Salif Keita, Amadou and Mariam, Oumou Sangare, and Manu Chao, among others. The group collaborated with Manu Chao for their third self-titled album in 2010, which was recorded in Mali and France.
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