Ozomatli Preside Over a Raucous, Reggae-Tinged Party

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Ozomatli, Gio Chamba
White Oak Music Hall
October 14, 2016

As with most of the songs in their repertoire, Ozomatli opened Friday night's set by giving a Latino twist to a fun and familiar tune. As the lights dimmed upon White Oak's sizable crowd, the theme from Star Wars sounded over the speakers, followed by congas and timbales and other beats that instantly rocked the hips and shoulders of those eager to dance the night away.

The name of the band is attributed to a companion spirit of the Aztec god of music and dance, a monkey whose mission is to stimulate art, games and fun. Keeping in that same animalistic tradition, Ozo opened with the track "La Gallina" (pronounded "Ga-yee-nah," Spanish for chicken or hen), which set the mood for a loud, fun and funky evening. The mix of horns, percussion and uptempo rhythms kept heartbeats elevated and feet shuffling all night long. They followed up with "Chango," a dance tune about an ugly dude who looks like a monkey but loves to dance.

Ozomatli is a master of alternating rhythms, building you up, slowing it down, smoothing it out, and then ramping the night up all over again. Their sounds are as diverse as the band members, most hailing from East L.A. but representing multiple ethnicities and backgrounds. Which is why their sound translates well across the globe as they incorporate hip-hop, jazz, reggae, Latin and funk into their sets with precision and love.

Their next album, which will be titled NONSTOP: LA - MEXICO - JAMAICA, will be an album of classic Mexican hits reimagined with a reggae feel. They provided a preview of this album by presenting the eager Houston crowd with covers of "Oye Mi Amor" by Maná; Selena's "Como La Flor"; and "El Noa Noa" by recently deceased Mexican composer Juan Gabriel, as well as Mexican bolero classics "La Bamba" and "Besame Mucho."

The band is celebrating 21 years of existence this year, and has won over music fans across the nation and all over the world. They have served as cultural ambassadors for the U.S. State Department, providing their positive tunes and message of self-empowerment to countless individuals with their music. In this sometimes bleak world filled with negativity and violence, Ozomatli is a throwback to when music was fun and accepting. 

The night ended with a run-through of classic Ozomatli hits, from "Cumbia De Los Muertos" to "Dos Cosas Ciertas" and a few newer hits such as "Paleta" and "La Temperatura." But the favorite of the night was "After-Party," a feel-good joint that is smooth, uplifting and downright jovial, with possibly the best question of any song ever:

"Oye baby, oye mami...Dónde está la afterparty?!"

The band then proceeded to venture into the crowd as is their tradition and finish the show on the middle of the music-hall floor, much to the approval and amusement of their fans. Ozo is a party everyone should experience at least once in his or her life. Best...party band...ever!

So How Was the Opener? As you may already know, Gio Chamba is probably the best individual performer in Houston right now, with his Latino-hippie electro-cumbia music shaking butts from the East End and beyond. But when he adds compadres Coffee Guzman on percussion and Principe Q on bass, the Gio Chamba Trip provides an unrivaled energy and spiritually uplifting set that will immediately transform you into fans. Be sure to catch Gio and his crew in town ASAP, because pretty soon he will be traveling across the country and across the world, spreading his message of positive vibes to anyone he meets.

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