Voices at Large

Welcome Ambassador Ozomatli

24 AUG 07 DAVID VIENNA

I was working in a record shop when Ozomatli's first major release debuted. Because of the band's eclectic, multi-cultural sound, where to put the CDs was a subject of long debate among the staffers. Almost 10 years later, the politically active members of Ozomatli continue to cross borders. Now, however, they are doing so literally and in conjunction with the same government they often protest against. Ozomatli recently agreed to serve as official U.S. Cultural Ambassadors, traveling to Middle East spots such as Tunisia, Jordan and Egypt. Both the band and the State Department hope the shows foster a sense of diplomacy and communication to counter the idea held by many Arab countries that America is a combative nation.

The policy of using musicians as cultural ambassadors is not new. What's new is that the State Department would ask a band so vocal about their opposition to the war to fill the slot. According to a story in the Los Angeles Times, the State Department was fine with the band's stance as long as they knew this trip was "about the music, not the politics." Still, when asked by foreign journalists about U.S. foreign policy, "they answered candidly." In addition to concerts, the members of Ozomatli visited local orphanages and performing arts centers. Now that they're back in the states, you can catch Ozo Friday night (Aug. 24) on CNN's The Situation Room and next Wednesday (Aug. 29) on Late Night with Conan O'Brien.

Jeff Lorber - Hacienda