An Exclusive Interview with Ozokids (plus video!)

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On Saturday, July 30, the internationally touring band Ozomatli will present their family-friendly “OzoKidz” show at Rox in Sox, the 4th annual free festival of music and reading.  The band will also play a full band show for grown-ups at the Aladdin Theater on Friday, July 29th. All of their shows offer an energetic world-beat concert experience that encourages everyone to get up and dance. PDX Parent is presenting media sponsor of Rox in Sox.

In 2012, Ozomatli released Ozomatli Presents “OzoKidz,” a special release for all ages. The album won plaudits from NPR, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, New York Daily News, iTunes and more.


Multi-percussionist Jiro Yamaguchi is a dad and founding member of Ozomatli, where he plays drums as well as an assortment of cool percussive instruments: tabla, doumbek, and congas, among others. With the band, Jiro has won three GRAMMY Awards, has done six recordings (a new album is in production now), and toured the world, with gigs in Japan, Europe, Africa, Australia and around the U.S. and Canada. Yamaguchi sat down with PDX Parent recently to talk about their music for kids and the upcoming Rox in Sox show.


PDX Parent: What inspired Ozomatli to create OzoKidz?

Jiro Y: OzoKidz is a separate entity from Ozomatli. Ozomatli (the Los Angeles based band including Asdu Sierra, Raúl Pacheco, Wil-Dog Abers, Ulises Bella, Jiro Yamaguchi, Justin Porée ) is still up and going strong – we’re touring around the country, and in Australia, and we are busy recording a new album for grown-ups. OzoKidz grew out of a gig we did a few years ago in Chicago, where we realized that our fans were heading into a new stage of life. Many were becoming parents and weren’t able to get to weekday late night gigs in nightclubs. We took a look at where we all were in our career, and our drummer at the time said, “Let’s do a kids’ record.” Meanwhile, PBS Kids contracted us to write and record a series of songs to be featured as part of the network’s children’s programming. After writing “Opposable Thumbs,” “Nouns,” and “Measurement,” the prospect of creating an original album of their own took shape. Offers to record songs for Warner Brother’s Interactive “Elmo’s Musical Monsterpiece” and “Happy Feet II” video games sealed the deal: OzoKidz was meant to be. Parents tell us that they groove to OzoKidz songs right along with their children. We hope to speak to a wide audience.



PDX Parent: How have your kids helped inspire some of your songs?

Jiro Y: Asdu and his daughter inspired the song “Piraña.” It speaks to any child’s fears of going into the water, and overcoming fears in general. My own daughter’s favorite song is “Moose on the Loose,” and that was a tune that Justin wrote.


PDX Parent: What do you like most about performing for kids versus adults?

Jiro Y: It’s loose and just a lot of fun. What we’ve learned is that the sets need to be shorter than a regular Ozomatli show; in fact, the shorter the better. For our Rox in Sox show, we’ll be handing out kazoos, leading a parade around the grounds, and roping off an area just for kids to dance and jump around. Dancing and singing along just comes naturally to kids.


PDX Parent: What can we expect from you for future songs?

Jiro Y: We’d llike to do another children’s album , but right now we’re working on recording our next album for grown-ups, and touring.


PDX Parent: Do you have any tips for kids looking to write their own music?

Jiro Y: Just do it. There are so many ways you can write a song… either you can start with the words, or humming a melody that’s in your head, so many different ways you can work. Creating new songs is a collaborative effort for Ozomatli. We can start in several ways, from jamming together, or one member arriving with a fully conceived song. It varies. I would say to an aspiring songwriter, just go with whatever moves you and go with it.

See OzoKidz Live on July 30th!

Jiro and the rest of the OzoKidz band appear at Rox in Sox on Saturday, July 30, at King School Park in North Portland. Visit for more information about this free all-ages festival. “Ozomatli Presents: OzoKidz” CDs will be available for sale.

Learn more about OzoKidz here:

Beat the summer doldrums! View their music video “Balloon Fest” here!

Ali Wilkinson
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