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Review: Ozomatli pleases Oahu fans
REVIEW BY ELIZABETH KIESZKOWSKI / firstname.lastname@example.org
Ozomatli rocked the house at The Republik on Saturday, Dec. 1, living up to expectations with a lively, sophisticated mash-up of Latino, funk-rock, world and hip-hop music.
The crowd nearly filled the floor at The Republik with a cool mix of ages and types; this was an enthusiastic group of fans, ready to sing along at the urging of each band member.
The band had a set list of songs, starting with “Gallina,” but there was no scripted feel in the natural flow of the music in The Republik that night. I’m guessing experience has given Ozomatli a strategy for rolling out the high-energy verses, solos and sing-alongs. Whatever the background, the music proved rewarding.
As guitarist Raul Pacheco promised in an interview before Ozomatli arrived in Hawaii, the band played a mix of favorite songs with brand-new pieces that will likely show up on the band’s next album. Ozomatli also played a show on Maui Friday night.
With a steady arc that included Afro-Latino poly-rhythm, rotating frontmen and a strategy of including each body in the club, we all felt moved and part of the party. Two horn players gave some songs a great, retro feel, banging up against ska and classic rock, but never sounding impersonal or rote.
The Republik is an ideal venue for a show like this. No one should sit or hang back during an Ozomatli show, and this room, a dedicated space for live music, funneled fans in front of the stage.
TV screens allowed wallflowers to see everything if they didn’t want to brave the crowd, but most set up camp front and center. It’s a tribute to the band that there were so many fans jumping and singing along with little conflict.
Ozomatli hit a peak with an ideal choice, “Saturday Night.” The song epitomizes the band’s approach, giving every member a voice, calling out to the crowd and paying homage to the pure pleasure of expression: “Dip, dive, socialize — get ready for the Saturday night.”
Most of us were dancing throughout the night. Some songs thoughout the set were very much retro hip-hop and funk, but the band members sold it with such charm that we didn’t feel dated in singing along.
There were plenty of other high points, including tasty solos and reggae-flavored interludes. Justin “Niño” Porée has taken charge of rapping for the band, and he sold it, stalking the stage, calling us out to “Jump! Jump! Jump! Jump!” and delivering in melodic, charismatic style.
Another lifetime thrill was Ozomatli’s finale. The band members jumped into the audience, carrying their silver drum kit with them, and deliberately made their way through the crowd, chanting and working the beat. As the drum got closer, you could not escape the boom-bap. At the end, the guys worked their way up to the front room for a few last, adrenaline-crazed and joyful minutes of drumming and shouting.
Scenes like that remind you of the power and potential we have, when we band together. For me, and likely for many at the concert, that’s what Ozomatli stands for.
Elizabeth Kieszkowski is editor of TGIF, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s weekly arts and entertainment section. Reach her via email at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter.