A couple years ago, after Joshua Goldberg, the community and events manager of Longmont’s Left Hand Brewing Company, donated free cases of beer to an event for Intercambio — an immigrant advocacy organization that promotes understanding across cultures through educational and cultural classes — he got an itch to do something bigger and crazier to break down all the barriers in the community.
Enter Culture Jam.
“Culture Jam is all about bringing together the different communities, the different cultures of Colorado and having them rock out and get sweaty and dance for a bunch of hours together at our brewery in Longmont,” Goldberg says. “Culture Jam is all about family, it’s all about music, it’s all about great food and a ton of great beer.”
It was a huge success, so they’re doing it all again this year. And fittingly enough, three-time Grammy Awardwinning Los Angeles-based band Ozomatli will headline the music festival for the second year in a row. The wide-ranged musical group has served as cultural ambassadors for the U.S. State Department overseas, and for good reason. Their music has been described as driving down Sunset Boulevard with the windows rolled down, blending all the different sounds that you hear from people’s cars: salsa, cumbia, hip-hop, rock and funk. Goldberg didn’t hold back his enthusiasm for the group’s return, and calls last year’s family-oriented music festival “the perfect night.”
Raul Pacheco, guitarist in Ozomatli, recently spoke with Boulder Weekly and says their job has always been to rock the party — something they’ve been doing for nearly 20 years.
“I think people like music that moves them,” he says. “Rhythm has a lot to do with that and we’re a very rhythmic band. We’ve never felt shunned or like people didn’t like us. We’ve always loved Colorado. It’s one of the first places that embraced us outside of Los Angeles when we first started touring. We like [Longmont]. It’s an incredible town. We had a great time the last time we came there. We’re just looking forward to reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.”
Ozomatli’s music incorporates traditional instruments and throws in horns, tamblas, marimbas and more. And whether singing out loud “cumbia, cumbia,” from the catchy chorus of “Cumbia de los Muertos,” or jamming out to the “Saturday Night” party anthem, Pacheco says, the goal of the band is to bring a high energy show and make the audience feel pure joy.
Their new album, Place in the Sun, released March 11, shows the progression of how far the band has come in creating their own individual niches and is about finding where you are happy, according to band members. It contains uplifting songs like “Brighter” and funky hip-shakers like elder homage song “Tus Ojos.” Some of Pacheco’s favorite tracks from the new album mix modern electronic sounds and computerized production with live instruments.
“I think it is important to understand what younger people are listening to. You know, styles change and I think it’s important to stay connected in some way,” Pacheco says. “It could even be looking at our show and seeing what we can do different. I think it’s important to kind of examine yourself and to make changes in an attempt to make it better, yes?”
Human rights is also an added passion of Ozomatli. The band first came together in an abandoned building in 1995 where they would work to raise funds for worker’s rights and fair wages. Culture Jam’s main beneficiaries will be Longmont’s YMCA and Intercambio.
“There’s kind of this extra deeper motivation to do a great job and have a great experience for everyone,” Pacheco says. “I think the biggest thing that has been on our minds lately has been immigration reform. It’s a humane issue; it’s a human rights issue. When they’re not afforded opportunities I think people need to survive and do whatever they need to do in order to do that — with dignity. We support the positive aspects of that.”
This year’s festival will also feature dance group Fiesta Colorado, Brazilian drum group Bateria Alegria, reggae band Na’an Stop, Panamanian group Making Movies and more.
Children can be dropped off at the YMCA’s “kid zone” and food and drink will be provided by Guacamole’s, Abo’s Pizza, Georgia Boys BBQ and, of course, Left Hand Craft Beer.
Pacheco couldn’t quite put his finger on the different sounds and music that come out of the streets in Colorado, but he says he would like to be in the mountains to “just listen to the wind.”