Posted by: Shanie Matthews | December 3, 2009

Ozomatli Helping Orphaned Children Exercise Happiness

A decade of brutal conflict in Nepal has left, by UN estimates, more than 35,000 school-age children in need of humanitarian support, basic education and other social services. Without it, hope is dim – life will be grim.

Enter Ozomatli (or “Ozo” for short), an eclectic nine-member, Los Angeles, three-time Grammy-award winning Latin, Hip Hop, and Salsa band. The musical brotherhood of Ozomatli was born from the desire to help the younger generation and has transitioned into bringing happiness to youngsters from around the world…especially 28 young souls coming from destitute conditions.

Ozomatli’s Bassist, Wil-dog, sat down with me after a toe-tapping, hip-shaking concert in Argentina to discuss the band’s philanthropic mindset. This is what he had to say…

SM: How did Ozomatli start with working children?

Abers: In reality, Ozomatli was playing for kids before it was even Ozomatli. Before Ozo was Ozo, the drummer and I worked for the Conservation Core doing performances for earthquake preparedness. We wrote a musical with me and the drummer playing all the instruments. We performed it throughout the school district three times a day. Doing things for kids was the beginning of Ozo and it’s what makes us who we are today.

So, anytime we get a request to play with children we try our best to go. Those are the funnest gigs to do. The kids don’t care who Ozomatli is. They are all excited that someone is coming to their class. It’s a chance to really see the music uniting.

SM: How did playing music for children morph into creating an orphanage?

Abers: We actually give money to a bunch of orphanages, but we have one that is the actual “Ozo house”.

Creating this home for children was kind of by chance. We went to Nepal in 2007 to promote peace. While we were there, we wanted to visit a lot of orphanages. We thought we could brighten the up the kid’s day by performing for them, ya know.

After seeing their harsh living situation and having our strong dedication to our next generation, we really felt by going there we had been given an opportunity.

The Umbrella Foundation (a non-profit dedicated to assisting impoverished Nepalese children) came to us afterwards and we asked what we could do. They told us about a building that they wanted to transform into a house for 28 kids. They asked us if we would be willing to help out and we said of course. I mean, not of course. We had the means to say yes and we decided to be a part of it.

SM: Are there any children in particular that really stole a place in your heart?

Abers: There is one child that came from a very abused background…beyond anything that we could even think of. But he could sing in five different languages and dance hip hop to Punjab music. He could play tabla, harmonium, all the drums from India. This guy was no more than eight or nine, but he was so full of music. He just fit in with us right away. We barely spoke the same language—he spoke a little bit of English—but he became one of us, and started performing with us. He was just yearning for something positive in his life. That was a beautiful soul right there. I’ll never forget him.

SM: Is there anything special that the children have taught you?

Abers: All of us from Ozomatli are kids from the hood…we were always the kids that were given to. Sometimes I think we hold on to that in our minds. We were the ones being sponsored so that is why we relate to them so much and why they relate to us. There isn’t the separation between us and them. The attitude and energy between us and the kids is magical because we are one of them. There is a soul connection there. And it’s during times like these that I realize why I’m doing this. I feel that this is what I was meant to do.

stay tuned for part 2 of Wil-dog’s philanthropic thoughts…

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Responses

  1. […] I caught wind that our absolute favorite live band, the Grammy-award-winning Ozomatli, was coming to Buenos Aires, I was beyond excitement. Although we couldn’t find out exactly when […]


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