Travel Diary: U.S. Band Ozomatli Rocks Shanghai Expo

Posted by Matt Bonaiuto
May 24, 2010
Ozomatli Performs Concert

About the Author: Matt Bonaiuto serves as a Consular Officer in at the U.S. Consulate Shanghai in China.

On Friday night, May 21, I went to the Ozomatli (pronounced Ao'zu'ma'te'li) concert at the World Expo, the first of the band's two Shanghai shows that weekend. The Grammy-winning band rocked out -- they are amazing live performers. The instruments they play -- ranging from bongos to saxophone to trumpet and guitars -- are as diverse as the band members themselves.

The 2010 World Expo in Shanghai is the first World's Fair, the modern term is "Expo," to be hosted by China. The Expo started on May 1 and will last six months. Well over two hundred buildings called 'pavilions' -- each representing a country, province, corporation, or theme -- dot a five plus square-kilometer space on both sides of the Huangpu River. From my vantage point at the concert, there was a sea of Expo-related LED lights across the river in Pudong, and several architecturally-striking national pavilions were also visible. Ozomatli played in a plaza called Exposition Square in the Puxi sector of the Expo, near glowing, post-modern pavilions sponsored by Chinese, American, and other enterprises.

The band was introduced to the enthusiastic crowd by two U.S. university students, who are volunteering at the USA Pavilion as "student ambassadors." The crowd appreciated their comedic repartee replete with jokes in Mandarin about the effects of Shanghai cuisine on their waistlines. The young duo's humor and their ability to speak Mandarin was a great warm-up for the energetic Ozomatli performance.

On stage, the band was flanked by giant USA Pavilion and U.S. Consulate Shanghai logos on 30-foot screens, with the band's name in our alphabet as well as in Chinese characters overhead.

Ozomatli sang in both English and Spanish, performing a high-energy, festive assortment of rap, hip-hop, salsa, R&B, and more. Even when it started to rain, the crowd continued to jump and wave, as some popped open their umbrellas. The band tossed towels to drenched but delighted fans. The audience happily heeded the band's advice to jump, jump, jump until their last song ended.

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