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Friday, Sept. 28, 2007
Ever since turntablist Cut Chemist and MC Chali 2na left Ozomatli in 2003, the salsa-inspired, jazz-capable Los Angeles collective's strong hip-hop component has been eclipsed by a tendency to try out every other international style as a means of advancing their inclusive global view.
The band's last album, "Street Signs," was full of Middle Eastern and African motifs that added greatly to their world-party reputation. Despite the title and cover art of their new album, "Don't Mess With the Dragon," Ozomatli isn't really "doing Asia" this time, though a few songs feature Japanese and Chinese-language samples. If anything the band seems to be indulging its localized priorities. Ska-punk of a distinctive Southern California shade figures prominently on a few tracks, and the R&B cuts, some with slick female backing vocals, have a strong Hollywood vibe.
For sure, there is still a lot of Latin-music influence and Spanish lyrics, but the short, single-form arrangements make them sound as if they'd be more suitable for a reggaeton club than for a block party, which is what their concerts usually turn into, what with band members invading the audience in an attempt to involve everyone in their quest to save the world through the power of dance music. Mess with the dragon all you want.
Ozomatli play Oct. 8, 7 p.m., at Daikanyama Unit, Tokyo, ¥6,000 ( 3444-6751); Oct. 9, 6:30 and 9:15 p.m., at Blue Note Nagoya, ¥7,800 ( 961-6311).