Tuesday, April 29, 2014

My Ozomatli Article and Interview

My Interview with Raul and Uli of Ozomatli

I posted previously here on my article “(Who Discovered) America”: Ozomatli and the Mestiz@ Rhetoric of Hip Hop" about Ozomatli in Ohio State University's alter/nativas latin american cultural studies journal. Update: I should also mention that I will be presenting at Rhetoric Society of America in San Antonio, TX during the L13 session, Sunday (May 25th) 8:00-9:15 Salon J [A/V].

Based on this article, I had the opportunity to interview two of Ozomatli's founding members Raul Pacheco and Ulises Bella before their second Oakland show at the New Parish on March 29. The heavily shaded photo below followed the sit-down I had in their dimly-lit green room, where I asked questions following up with what I wrote in my article .

(Raul Pacheco, Me, and Uli Bella)

In addition, I asked some questions based on my current book project for Palgrave Poch@ Pop, for which I started a tumblr. The monograph is for Palgrave's series on Latino Pop Culture, and it looks at Latin@ pop culture producers who challenge, contest, and subvert dominant narratives about Latin@s in the U.S.  It follows the trajectory that my article on Ozomatli bridged between my dissertation work and this current project. Conceptually, my interview with Raul and Uli serves as a kind of 'artists speak back' chapter following the arguments I outline in previous chapters about poch@ pop artists.

Poch@ Pop will be coming out later this year, and I will be sure to keep updates about it here, but I thought I'd include an excerpt from the beginning of the interview that discusses their most recent album Place in the Sun:

Cruz Medina: “Brighter” is a song from the new album that seems to carry the same energy as some of the past songs, but you guys are great about acknowledging that undertone that touches on…

Raul Pacheco: Darkness.

CM: Or critical hope. How do you feel like you guys continue to balance that critical hope with the energy? Does the music come first?

RP: Even those of us who were militant at times about things, as a group it’s never framed in that sense. You know, we’re not Rage Against the Machine. And I think our energy when we’re together is kind of light. We’re more about getting along—so even our differences, and things that are more critical or more pointed in terms of pointing things out—we have a tendency to do it that [light] way. ‘Cause we’re like a dance band.

CM: Has there ever been pressure from outside the band to follow one genre or trajectory? And have you had to push back explaining that there’s a reason for the fusion?

RP: Sure, sure. But even when we try, we really can’t do it. We tried to do it on this record [A Place in the Sun], and we just ended up doing whatever we wanted. It just wasn’t feeling natural.

CM: This definitely is a spectrum on this album where “A Place in the Sun” captures the summertime feeling, but then I love “Tus Ojos.”

RP: That song [“Tus Ojos”] is about his [Ulisses Bella’s] grandmother.

Ulises Bella: It started off as a jam that we would do live, and the thing is that this particular jam that we would do in the middle of a cumbia—we’d always hit the crowd hard, so I was like ‘we got to make that fucking thing a song. We got to make it a song, we got to make it a song…’ ad naseum, right.  

Check out the album and read the forthcoming interview in Poch@ Pop!