A specialist in Indian and Middle Eastern percussion, multi percussionist Jiro Yamaguchi is a founding member of the band Ozomatli where he plays Tabla, Doumbek, and Congas, among other instruments. With the band Jiro has won three Grammy awards, has done 6 recordings, recently put out a kids album called Ozo Kidz and has donde extensive touring that includes Japan, Europe, African, Australia and the U.S..
Ozomatli’s music has always been internationalist in its scope, seamlessly blending and transforming traditions from Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East, what other band could record a song once described as “Arabic Jarocho Dancehall”?.
With Ozomatli, Jiro was invited by the U.S. State Department to serve as official Cultural Ambassadors on a series of government-sponsored international tours to Asia, Africa, South America, and the Middle East, tours that linked Ozomatli to a tradition of cultural diplomacy that also includes the esteemed likes of Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and Louis Armstrong.
In places like Tunisia, Egypt, India, Jordan, and Nepal, Ozo didn’t just play rousing free public concerts, but offered musical workshops and master classes and visited arts centers, summer camps, youth rehabilitation centers, and even a Palestinian refugee camp. They listened to performances by local musicians and often joined in for impromptu jam sessions with student bands and community musicians. Most shows ended up with kids dancing on stage and their new collaborators sitting in for a tabla solo or a run on the slide guitar.
In the case of Nepal, the band’s trip was part of a celebration of the country’s newly ratified peace accord. Their concert, which drew over 14,000 people, was a historic one. Ozo were the first Western band to do a concert in Nepal, and the event was the country’s first peaceful mass gathering that was not a protest or religious ceremony. They then went on to be the first contemporary western band to play public concerts in Mongolia (drawing a crowd of 25,000), and to perform in Myanmar during the height of military rule.
Ozomatli also traveled to China, South Africa, Madagascar, Vietnam and Thailand performing free concerts and extending humanitarian outreach, includingHIV and AIDS care clinics, visits to schools for the blind and deaf, orphanages, Methadone clinics, and outreach programs to refugees and disadvantaged youth.
Ozomatli were honored to accompany the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Celebrating the Pops 125th Anniversary. Since that first orchestral collaboration, they have gone on to perform Ozo classics live with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center, the Colorado Symphony, the San Diego Symphony, and the New York Pops.
Ozomatli made an appearance at TEDxSF – the first musical talk ever given at any TED conference – mixing discussion and sound to explore the challenges and promises of musical identities in a global age.
In addition to their substantial history licensing their music for film, television and video games, the band has also gone on to compose and score, recently contributing music to Happy Feet 2 and Elmo’s Musical Monsterpiece for Warner Brothers Interactive, SIMS for EA Games, music for PBS Kids, the motion pictures A Better Life and Harlistas, and Gabriel Iglesias Presents Stand-Up Revolution on Comedy Central..
The past few years have seen the band focused on Ozomatli Presents “Ozokidz”, a special family friendly set geared towards performing for children and adults alike. The album, released on Hornblow Recordings in fall of 2012 has been recognized by the media as a standout release in the children’s music genre, with plaudits coming from NPR, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, New York Daily News, iTunes and more.