OZOMATLI – What Do You Get When You Fuse Mexican & Jamaican Music?

Ozomatli’s Raul Pacheco chats with Rip Nicholson about adding a little Jamaican to their Mexican style and working with Sly and Robbie on their latest album.


RAUL PACHECO interviewed October 20, 2016
For Street Press Australia [VIEW HERE]

“Referencing Mexican music that’s 100 years old with the earliest forms of Jamaican reggae was our mission,” explains Ozomatli guitarist Raul Pacheco. “We had a lot of fun blending these unique cultures on record.”

The cultural fusion has been an exercise in finding that balance. The Los Angeles-based collective, Ozomatli, collaborated with JamRock’s finest production duo in Lowell ‘Sly’ Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare for a journey culminating in their latest output, Never Stop: Mexico To Jamaica.

“We’ve always had this Mexican style, and that’s part of who we are and I don’t think that’s going away.”

Ever since Carlos Santana’s son added them to his old man’s Supernatural world tour, Ozomatli have been synonymous with delivering worldwide music, culturally native to the LA scene, for 21 years. Already blending Chicano funk-rock, salsa and jazz to create Ozo’s identity, Pacheco is excited to now be adding reggae fusion to their latest sound.

“We’ve always had this Mexican style, and that’s part of who we are and I don’t think that’s going away,” Pacheco addresses, “but, when you’ve been together for as long as we have, it’s now about trying to come at this from a different angle and also have a different experience as musicians.”


Twisting up concepts of covers vastly different to the Mexican classics on which they grew up became a mission for the band for their eighth studio release. “We thought, ‘That’s cool, let’s tool these up and have them mashing, like from Mexico to Jamaica, non-stop.’ Sly and Robbie were some of the originators to some of this stuff we were using and they were totally open to it and still did it this way.

“So when the idea came up of doing them in different styles of reggae, we thought, ‘Who do we love?’ and went straight to the source. We were lucky and honoured that Sly and Robbie were totally open to doing it,” he expresses, with true delight in his voice, of these legends who now join their illustrious credit list that stretches the spectrum from Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger to Britney Spears and Madonna.

“Part of what we were doing was auditioning for Sly and Robbie,” admits Pacheco. “We wanted, not only their approval but their authenticity on this. Every time we delve into this we’re trying to take it very seriously, because we’re not Jamaican and it’s obvious we are copying their styles and doing the best we can. We love this music, we respect this music. So there were elements of ska, elements of reggae, elements of ’80s electro-reggae.”

The six-piece band are a globally traversing live act and, heading back down to Australia, Ozomatli expect to build on their fond memories. “We’ve always had such a wonderful time there,” he enthuses. “We’re looking forward to coming back. There’s an element in our spirit and those who come to our shows really love to let loose; not afraid to express themselves. Of our musical experiences in shows, they’ve been nothing but positive. It’s summer over there, which is our winter, so we’re looking forward to soaking in some sun and water.”




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