Ozomatli is a hip-hop group formed in 1996 in Los Angeles, known as much for their extremely vocal activist viewpoints as their wide array of musical styles. Ozomatli take their name from the Nahuatl word for the Aztec astrological symbol of the monkey, which is also a god of dance, fire, the new harvest, and music. The members of the band met through their affiliation with the Peace and Justice Center of Los Angeles, and their first performance was for picketers during a strike. They began their career in the Los Angeles and San Diego/Mexico border-area club scene.
The members of the band met through their affiliation with the Peace and Justice Center of Los Angeles, and their first performance was for picketers during a strike. They began their career in the Los Angeles and San Diego/Mexico border-area club scene. Following an appearance in Vibe magazine, the group broke into the mainstream, releasing Ozomatli, their self titled debut album, in June 1998 under the Almo Sounds label.
Ozomatli's second album, Embrace The Chaos, was released on the inauspicious date of September 11, 2001. Although many American bands cancelled their concerts, Ozomatli gained some recognition for continuing to play their concerts, all the while continuing their commitment to social justice and progressive politics, in addition to the rising anti-war movement. Afterwards, the band made a further commitment to a new direction in music, embracing North African and Arab musical styles in addition to their own.
The musical styles of many cultures are blended on 2004's Street Signs, with vocals mentioning the Yakuza crossing paths with gnawa trance; or Moroccan sintir virtuoso Hassan Hakmoun, joining the band along with Les Yeux Noirs and the Prague Symphony. Also accompanying are David Hidalgo of Los Lobos and Mario Calire of The Wallflowers. The salsa pioneer Eddie Palmieri, who is on the Concord Jazz label, is a featured performer on Street Signs.
In 2005, Street Signs won the Grammy Award for Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album.