Ozomatli . . .

. . . heals with the power of rhythm

Ozomatli and G. Love present their distinct sounds at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Castle Theater in Kahului. Tickets are $40 and $50 for assigned seats or $60 for general admission with dance floor access (plus applicable fees). For more details or to purchase tickets, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or go to www.mauiarts.org. Photo courtesy the artist

Ozomatli came up with a brilliant concept for their latest album, “Nonstop: Mexico to Jamaica,” reimagining classic and contemporary Mexican hits through the filter of various facets of reggae.

Thus Richie Valens classic “La Bamba” is completely transformed into a joyous, reggaefied dance party jam enhanced with vocal help from Slightly Stoopid; and Selena’s iconic “Como la Flor,” is revamped with a seductive ska/rocksteady vibe, with the whole project helmed by Jamaican drum and bass legends Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare.

“Our percussionist thought it would be cool to do it to some new and old tunes, and once we knew that Sly and Robbie were interested, it pushed it over the edge,” explains Ozomatli’s Ulises Bella. “We had played some festivals with them and played on a song on their last record. We asked if they were interested and they were totally into it. You can hear their sonic signature on some of the tracks. We’re huge fans of their playing and production.”

Injecting reggae, ska, rocksteady and dancehall rhythms to various songs, they invited a range of artists to help out including Columbian musician Juanes, Guatemalan singer Gaby Moreno, rapper Chali 2na of Jurassic 5, G. Love (who will join them on Maui) and trumpet icon Herb Alpert.

“With every song track we tried to capture the different evolution of Jamaican music,” he continues. “When we were talking initially about songs I didn’t want to do ‘La Bamba’ because it’s been done and there are such iconic versions of it. But we gave it a shot and now it’s one of my favorite tracks.”

Alice Cooper is one of the “friends” at Willie K’s Blues Fest Saturday at the MACC. Photo courtesy Paranormal Press

Featuring primarily Spanish language songs, they reinvigorate Santana’s “Evil Ways,” with a bass-heavy, pumping reggae-dub groove.

“That’s a tip of the hat to our musical godfather, Carlos,” says Bella.

And Chali 2na and G. Love jump on board for a hip-hop take on Wilson Pickett’s soul classic “Land of 1000 Dances.”

“We’ll probably be doing that in Hawaii,” he says.

Long known for their exuberant fusion of styles, Ozomatli was formed in Los Angeles in 1995. The band comprises Bella on sax and vocals; percussionist Jiro Yamaguchi; Wil-Dog Abers on bass and vocals; Justin Poree on percussion and vocals; Asdru Sierra on  trumpet and lead vocals; Raul Pacheco on guitar and lead vocals; and Wally Valdez on drums.

An electrifying live act, in recent years this Grammy-winning band won over audiences around the globe as cultural ambassadors sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. These government-sponsored tours took them to Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East.

In Nepal in 2007, the band’s trip was part of a celebration of the country’s newly ratified peace accord. Their historic, free concert in Katmandu, which was broadcast live on national television, drew more than 10,000 people.

“The first trip we ever did was to India and Nepal,” he says. “Katmandu was crazy because no one knew who we were — maybe 10 people. It was in the midst of a Maoist/government ceasefire and Shivaratri, the huge religious festival dedicated to Shiva, where for one day all cannabis use is legal. It was really trippy. The same kind of thing happened in Mongolia (in 2010), where it was such a great test of the music itself without hype and history. It was really satisfying.”

“When we started, Bush was in office and there was a lot of turmoil going on and then it continued a bit through the Obama years. Now I feel I want to go back out there because more than ever I feel I need to play for people and connect with people.”

Always a treat live, their Maui Arts & Cultural Center concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday features a dance floor.

“With an unending devotion to the power of rhythm, Ozomatli is like a dozen bands fused into one,” raved a Napa Valley Register review. “Ozomatli’s music is a polyglot of cultures, ranging from Puerto Rican salsa to Cuban son, inner city hip-hop to Brazilian batucada, in-your-face rap to Latin rock — all dropped into a wild party atmosphere along with a substantial helping of social consciousness.”

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Moving his annual “Willie K & Friends Blues Fest” to the MACC’s A&B Amphitheater at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Willie K will host a night of rocking blues joined by some celebratory friends. Legends joining him include shock-rock godfather Alice Cooper, Michael McDonald and the Doobie’s Pat Simmons, plus Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel and saxophonist Alto Reed of Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band.

A multi-Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winner, Willie K won Rock Album of the Year for “Warehouse Blues,” with the Warehouse Blues Band, a tremendous collection of original songs that paid tribute to some of the musicians Willie admires from John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters, to Albert Collins and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

The composer of such iconic rock songs as “Schools Out,” “I’m Eighteen” and “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” Cooper’s latest acclaimed album, “Paranormal,” features guest appearances by ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, U2’s drummer Larry Mullen Jr., and Deep Purples’ Roger Glover.

A Paste Magazine review raved the album “does the near-impossible: offering something of worth for fans of his ’70s output, those folks that clued in once Alice popped up in ‘Wayne’s World’ and those newly minted fans who were welcomed to his nightmare on his recent run of tour dates. There’s almost no other rockers of Alice’s vintage that could pull off such a feat.”

A former member of the Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan, McDonald has pursued a successful solo career since the 1980s. A recent member of the Dukes of September with Donald Fagen and Boz Scaggs, his recordings include two hit Motown tributes and his latest, “Wide Open,” which Rolling Stone hailed as a return “to the sounds that made him so popular in the late 1970s and 1980s –mostly keyboard-heavy soul, with occasional excursions into blues ballads.”

A founding member of the Doobie Brothers, Simmons sang and played guitar on many of the legendary rock bands hits including “Black Water,” “China Grove” and “Long Train Running.” Most recently Simmons and the Doobie’s Tom Johnston reunited with McDonald and collaborated with country stars like Blake Shelton and Brad Paisley on the album “Southbound.”

Opening acts at the fest include Gretchen Rhodes, Kennedy Cantu and the K.D. Russell Band.

* The “Willie K & Friends Blues Fest” takes place at 6 p.m. Saturday at the MACC’s A&B Amphitheater. Gates open at 5. Tickets are $40 (adult general admission), $65 and $85, with a limited number of $250 VIP packages, and $10 general admission for kids ages two to 12 (plus applicable fees).

VIP tickets include: premium seat; meet and greet with some of the “special friend” artists; access to the Yokouchi Courtyard bars and restrooms; Willie K CD; souvenir commemorative lanyard/VIP pass; and complimentary parking in the MACC lot. For tickets and information, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or online at www.mauiarts.org.

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In 2017, we lost a number of renowned musicians who graced us in concert over the years and were interviewed in these pages including Eddie Kamae, Al Jarreau, Walter Becker, Roland Cazimero, Greg Allman, Martin Pahinui, Larry Coryell, James Cotton, Jon Hendricks and Fulton Tashombe.

The beloved musician and leader of the Sons of Hawaii, Kamae spent years helping perpetuate Hawaiian culture through his award-winning documentaries.

“I’ve seen some of the most beautiful things happen where everything was aloha,” he once said. “You can’t sell aloha.”

Creating an innovative blend of rock, jazz and funk, Steely Dan was known for crafting smart, often oblique lyrics. “We were trying to do something a little different and trying to find ways to give our songs a certain amount of depth, not cave into the temptation to just write trivial stuff,” Becker explained. “It’s hard with songs because there are so few words.”

Before a Maui show, keyboardist Allman talked about his love for the classic sound of the Hammond B-3 organ.

“I love it to death; I’ve got six of them,” he reported. “Two are in the (Rock and Roll) Hall of Fame, two travel with me in my (solo) band, and two I leave with the Allman Brothers. You always have to have a backup.”

Reflecting on his ability to move people Jarreau noted: “If you think about the world and the days we are living, the anxiety people experience about so many things, you become really touched by the fact that for a  little while you can make them smile and sing and forget all of that stuff. And maybe leave feeling a little refreshed hearing a song with a message that stays with them — so tomorrow is a little easier.”

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