Members of the 10-piece Los Angeles group Ozomatli say they took their name from the Aztec god of dance, and since they sometimes jump into the audience to lead a samba line, it seems a good choice. A mix of Latin, funk, hip-hop, reggae and folklrico music, Ozomatli won a Grammy Award in 2001 for Best Latin Rock/Alternative album for Embrace the Chaos. After the September 11 terrorist attacks against the United States, Ozomatli increased their use of Middle Eastern rhythms and instruments in an effort to bridge the distance between Eastern and Western cultures. They won another Grammy and a Latin Grammy for 2004's Street Signs, which included guests such as Moroccan sinter master Hassan Hakmoun, violinist Les Yeux Noir, the Prague Symphony, legendary Latin jazz pianist Eddie Palmieri and members of Cut Chemist. Currently at work on Don't Mess With the Dragon, due for release in early 2007, the group isn't easy to pin down; bouncing from one style to another, they blend party-band bounce with serious lyrics that call for social justice. But, hey, nobody said you couldn't do both at the same time, and Ozomatli seems to have figured out how to do that -- and do it well.
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Olivia Flores Alvarez