Celebrated Los Angeles culture-mashers Ozomatli are set to release their new album, Fire Away, April 20th on Mercer Street Records / Downtown Records. Fire Away is the Grammy Award-winning band’s fifth studio full length, and first for the NYC based Mercer Street Records / Downtown Records. Produced by acclaimed producer Tony Berg, Fire Away features eleven new Ozo songs (full tracklisting below), including the first single “It’s Only Paper”, currently being serviced to radio.
Ozomatli’s music -- a 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 the city of Los Angeles.
This certainly resonated with producer Tony Berg (Aimee Mann, Pete Yorn), who describes working with Ozomatli “like visiting seven continents simultaneously”. Berg believes the Fire Away sessions “captured the spirit of the band’s live show without being a live album,” and he sensed Ozomatli stretching themselves in the studio, adding “each of the members had grown as a writer and as a musician. I think Fire Away reflects their true songwriting talents--everyone's point-of-view was captured. That is the spirit of Ozomatli. They're pan-cultural, and they somehow manage to be raucous and thoughtful at the same time."
Fire Away is arguably Ozomatli’s most diverse album yet, ranging from the emotionally resplendent ballads “It’s Only Time” and “Love Comes Down,” the 60’s Stax influenced vibe of “45”, to the Spanglish of “Nadas Por Free”.
“Malagasy Shock” recounts singer and guitarist Raul Pacheco’s harrowing near death experience, electrocuted on stage in front of thousands of people during the band’s recent State Department trip to Madagascar. Pacheco offers, “Sometimes you are shocked into realizing life must be lived with a profoundly energetic fervor.” He pauses, then adds, “...and sometimes you are just actually shocked!”
Fire Away also includes “Gay Vatos In Love,” one of the more controversial songs Ozomatli has ever penned. Some may raise eyebrows that a group with no gay members would address same sex unions, but the subject matter doesn’t seem so contentious in the hands of a band with a longstanding mission of peace and tolerance.
Raul poses a simple question, “Do you believe that everyone deserves love? Even gay vatos? Quickly adding, “Yes, for sure. It is always a good time to challenge our own notions and boundaries of what can be. Especially in the ever present natural need and quest for love. We say, let every person have the right to choose who and how they love one another... “
2009 proved to be a busy year for Ozomatli, serving as US cultural ambassadors with a US sponsored State Department trip that included Ozomatli community outreach and performances in Myanmar, Vietnam, and Thailand. The band was also honored to play for President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s 32nd Annual Award Gala, held in Washington DC in September.
2010 looks to continue Ozomatli’s feverish pace. In addition to taking their incendiary live show on the road in support of Fire Away, March brings two shows at the SXSW Festival in Austin, collaborating with the the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra as well as the Boston Pops Orchestra for the 125th Pops Anniversary Celebration in early May, and once again serving as US Cultural Ambassadors with a State Department trip to China and Mongolia (details forthcoming).