In Conversation with Ozomatli’s Raul Pacheco

Apr 23, 2017

The first time we heard Ozomatli was at Farnsworth Park’s small amphitheater in the foothills of Altadena. It was magical from the first note played.

The crowd—mostly parents with the kids of all ages—was on its feet immediately, clapping, heads bopping, and feet moving. Before long, people were dancing in the aisles, kids filled the area down front, and several were invited up to dance amid the musicians.

My girl, maybe 6 at the time, asked for Ozomatli’s newly released album, which at the time was Street Signs. For many months, that became the go-to CD every time we drove in the car (which was a lot).



On May 6, Ozomatli headlines the 9th annual South Pasadena Eclectic Festival. Ozomatli will open the festival with songs from its Ozokids moniker and close the evening with a sampling from its new album Non-Stop. We’re grateful to Raul Pacheco of Ozomatli for granting us this interview…


HP: When did you begin singing and playing an instrument? 

Raul: My house was filled with a music-loving family and there were all kinds of recorded music playing at any given time. Because I was the youngest, I got to hear music that my parents and older siblings loved and that’s why I love all kinds of music. It’s also why I started singing around the house as a kid, why my parents encouraged me to join the elementary school choir, and why my elementary school choir director suggested I audition for a professional boys choir. I sang in that choir from age 8 to 14—and that was the same time I picked up guitar, at age 14.



HP: When Ozomatli was created in 1995, were you a founding member? Was the group formed with a particular idea, goal, or ideology in mind?

Raul: Ozomatli was founded in 1995 and all six current members are original members. We started playing together to support our bass player’s worker strike. From the get go, it became clear that we were going to mash styles and rock the crowd. Doing that and supporting causes we love is still what we are about.

HP: The folks working the South Pasadena Eclectic Festival had to have been jumping out of their shoes when they secured Ozomatli for this year’s event. Was there a particular reason the band agreed to play this venue?

Raul: Basically we were in town, available that day, and there was no other performance conflict. So why not? It’s a hometown gig and we have all spent a lot of time in South Pas., starting at Buster’s, going to the farmer’s market, and my kids graduated from South Pas. High.

HP: What prompted the creation of OzoKidz

Raul: We’ve been around for 22 years and are always looking to do something different. At some point your fans are getting older with you and, just like you, they’re having kids along the way. We started hearing back from our fans about baby sitting issues, etc., so we decided to make a kids record for those fans and we actually had a lot of fun doing it.



HP: The new Ozomatli album is Non-Stop. How would you describe it? 

Raul: Our new record Non-Stop imagines us starting in Mexico City, gathering all our favorite old and new Mexican songs, then taking a flight straight to Kingston, Jamaica and recording them there. There are mariachi classics, songs like “Bésame Mucho” and “La Bamba,” and newer songs like “Eres from Cafe Tacuba.” It is our first “covers” record and we wanted to put a twist on it—Mexican classic songs with a Jamaican feel and sound.


Ozomatli; photo by Cynthia Perez.


HP: On a personal note, what is your favorite time of day and, if you don’t have prior commitments, what do you like to do with it? 

Raul: My favorite time of day is when I wake up by my lady. If I don’t have prior commitments, I like to run in the Arroyo. It’s my meditation.

HP: What’s your favorite vice? 

Raul: My favorite vice is coffee!

HP: What’s your least favorite chore? 

Raul: My least favorite chore is cleaning up the dog poop!

HP: What have you learned or experienced that has become a core life lesson or value that is essential to your life?

Raul: Be Honest; it lessens the amount of drama in life.

HP: You have a free day in Pasadena, or anywhere in San Gabriel Valley. What’s a dream day for you?

Raul: Free day? Let’s take a drive to Mt. Wilson, walk around and take it all in….



Raul Pacheco and Ozomatli perform at the South Pasadena Eclectic Festival on May 6. For details, please visit TheEclectic.Rocks.

For more Ozomatli, visit



Tom Huntington of the Rutland Herald writes:

More than two decades into its colorful existence, the eclectic Los Angeles band Ozomatli might well be more vital and relevant than ever. Case in point: the Grammy-winning group is set to drop a stellar new album, and its vibrant live show is still a potent and highly dance-inducing affair that finds band members mixing it up with adoring fans.
—”Ozomatli brings live show and new album” by Tom Huntington, Rutland Herald, 13 April 2017






Flintridge Books

Lyd and Mo Photography

Louis Jane Studios

Homage Pasadena