By Mario Ivan Ona
Fifteen years in the biz, and the members of Los Angeles Mexifunk troupe Ozomatli have no intention of growing up. And why should they?
Their keg-stand anthems, general buffoonery and sneaky lefty politics have landed them three Grammys and a recent White House gig. Since 2007, they've been spreading Western love in places like Vietnam, Burma, Jordan and Nepal, as U.S. State Department cultural ambassadors.
(How is Ozomatli like a mullet? Explanation after the jump.)
On the band's fifth album, "Fire Away," there's plenty of goofball fodder for the frat houses. The brassy banda romper "Caballito" is so over-the-top, it will dare drunk college kids to bust out their best Mexican hat dance. But there's also plenty of party music, such as "Elysian Persuasion" - the closest they've come to nailing Parliament's brand of funk.
At times, the jocularity seems to get away from them. It's not that "Gay Vatos [Dudes] in Love" is offensive, but given Ozo's penchant for social commentary and the debate over same-sex marriage in California, it seems like a wasted opportunity. They opted for a punch line instead of a kick to the establishment.
Ozo's arsenal includes several Latin American string instruments (jarana, charango, tres), an Indian tabla and a Persian piano-like celeste. And on the Afro-pop, merengue track with blaring mariachi horns, "Are You Ready?," the Good Hope Tsalanang Cultural Group Gumboot Dancers (from a home for abused children in Johannesburg) lend their voices and stomping feet.
Ozo is sort of like a mullet: all business up front and party in the back. But be they clowns or emissaries, they know one thing: Laughter and dance can unite people in ways politicians could only dream of.
Recommended tracks: "Elysian Persuasion," "Malagasy Shock," "Are You Ready?"
Ozomatli performs at the 9:30 club on April 26.