Posted by: Shanie Matthews | January 1, 2010

Ozomatli is in the House

Living abroad can be wonderful. Venturing into the unknown and living outside the box in Argentina’s Patagonia has been a wild adventure. Every day is full of new, challenging and life-expanding experiences. But there are things about home that I miss. My main cause of homesickness, other than friends and family, is not being able to see beloved musicians in concert.

When 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 or where the concert was going to be held, there was no doubt in my mind that my husband, Jamie, and I were going to make the two and half hour flight from our new home in Bariloche. We booked the flights, found an interesting hotel to stay in, and waited anxiously for the day to come.

When the golden moment finally arrived, the smiles could not be wiped off of our faces. The flight to the metropolis of thirteen million people went by incredibly quickly. Our bag was the first one to be unloaded on the baggage claim. There was no line-up for the taxi. And when we arrived at our sleeping sanctuary, Hotel Moreno, the room was spacious, modern and much better than we had expected. The trip was off to a great start.

our room

After settling in, we decided to experience the hustle and bustle of the big city. Within a few hours we were ready for some relaxation time and made our way back to the hotel.

As we rounded the corner leading to the hotel entrance we found a cluster of taxis and motorists honking their horns incessantly. Within a few steps we saw a large van blocking the narrow road. The bellhops were hurriedly unloading large pieces of luggage.

We were confused seeing musical equipment being unloaded into the hotel fore.

“Maybe the hotel’s new theater is opening,” Jamie suggested.

Huge pieces of luggage lined the hallway. Looking down at one we saw the sticker of our favorite band.

“Interesting”, I thought. A few more steps and we were passing some personal luggage. One of the pieces had the name tag in plain sight…Jiro Yamaguchi. The luggage of the percussionist of Ozomatli was in our hotel. What was going on?

We were on our way to the front desk to ask a question anyway, but it worked out to be amazing timing. There they all were. Ozomatli was checking into the hotel that we, by chance, chose to stay at. It was unbelievable.

front desk lobby

Giddy feelings came over me. All of a sudden my ability to speak flew away like a scared bird. I felt like a complete fool as I stuttered “We love you guys! Thank you so much for coming to Argentina.”

The members, looking tired, looked at me in disbelief. I was beginning to feel like a small school girl. Being in my mid-thirties, it wasn’t that great of a sensation.

Then my feelings of groupie shame came to an end.

“Hey you guys, nice to see you,” said the bassist Wil-Dog. I looked over towards him. He had a welcoming smile and his arms stretched out to give me hug. Wil-Dog remembered us from being at so many of their shows. I took the invitation and was surprised with a strong, friendly embrace.

He gave my husband a hug and we talked for a few minutes. The rest of the band members smiled and headed off to their rooms.

“Wow, what a coincidence. Can you believe it?” I gushed, expelling the air I had held in my chest since we walked into the lobby. “How is it that they ended up in the same place as us, out of thousands of hotels?”

“This is absolutely crazy!” Jamie agreed with excitement.

We learned that Ozomatli had been invited to Argentina by the United States consulate as a gift to the Argentine people, in hopes of helping relations between the two countries. The consulate had paid for the band to do a free show for the youth of Argentina.

Later that night, enjoying our room, we heard the antique elevator come to a stop on our floor.

“Peak your head out the door and see who it is. Who knows, maybe it’s one of the band.”

I took Jamie’s advice and looked out. Sure enough, it was Wil-Dog, in the flesh.

“Hi Wil,” I squeaked. My overwhelming inability to deal with being close to an adored musician was returning. “Do you have a few minutes to talk?”

“Sure!”

I couldn’t believe it. He said sure. A stupid smile came over my face. All words had disappeared from my brain.

Thankfully my husband rescued me. He asked about Wil-dog’s favorite time in concert: playing, as the nation’s first foreign musical act, to an endearing, appreciative crowd in Nepal.

What was Wil-dog’s favorite part about being a musician? His answer surprised me; being able to help less-fortunate kids. They had started two orphanages for children and were working on helping other youth.

I have been a fan of Ozomatli for about a decade. I knew they enjoyed involving children in their shows, but had no idea that creating orphanages was one of their passions as well. It is also my desire in life to help needy children and one of the reasons that I chose to move to Argentina. I was completely baffled that the musicians that I loved dearly were active players for a cause so close to my heart. My admiration soared.

“Yeah, I suppose if we advertised more that we do that kind of stuff it would help our record sales.” Wil casually expressed.

Amazing, being that they had just recently moved from, according to Wil, sleeping on friends couches during tours to having enough money to stay in a hotel room.

We talked a bit more and then realized that it was close to two in the morning. Time to let the rock star go, he did have a big show the following day.

Wil-dog rocking the house

Saturday flew by and before we knew it, it was time to get ready to dance. We showed up to a fairly empty dance club, but by the time the show was to start the hall was full of expecting faces.

Ozomatli, as usual, put on a magnetic, sweat inducing, energetic show. Near the end they came out into the crowd and did their normal ending of a drum solo and conga line. The glowing faces of the Argentine locals were showing pure joy.

Ozomatli putting on a show

Ozomatli had made a connection. The people loved them.

It seems that the United States consulate had made a great decision. Music unites. There are a lot more Argentines feeling good about the United States right now.

Myself included.

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Responses

  1. You have impeccable taste. Ozo is el mejor! Just saw 2 shows with Chali 2na and Cut Chemist rejoining them xmastime in LA at the new Club Nokia. Awesome!

  2. Hi Dave,

    Thanks so much for your comment and kudos (:

    Ozo is truly el mejor. What great shows you were able to be a part of! Sounds like an absolute blast!

    Happy 2010!

    Cheers,
    Shanie

  3. […] 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 […]


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