Just spent three days basking in the glow of a group of artists that loves, I mean, loves its art. Watching this group (Ozomatli) perform, I was convinced that this isn't just a business deal for these guys. They love performing. They love taking their art to a higher level. They love seeing the joy in audiences' faces as they congo through the throbbing crowd at the end of a show. They love watching frenzied fans bounce, jump, wave, dip, and scream in response to their Latin, funk, hip-hop, mid-Eastern, rap art.
Because I've seen them perform so many times, because I read their posts on Facebook, because I sometimes talk to them before shows, I know their affection for the art is genuine. They're not just doing this for the money or the ego-strokes. The pull is heart-deep.
One of the Ozo shows I watched this weekend was devoted to kids: Ozokids. It was held in a rowdy adult venue, the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco. It was held with an open bar (you had to be stamped to be able to drink the "Big People" drinks). It was attended by all kinds of adult Ozo fans. Seemed like a regular Ozo show...but it wasn't. The driving spirit of the show was genuine love, for the kids and for the music that moves kids to dance, jump, play instruments, and grin. Seeing these band members in silly costumes, doing gallops and jumps and performing really dorky drama, while powering out their wondrous music, was touching. It was like being in the living room (the loving room?) of a big, warm family.
This group has always touched me with their substance. These aren't fluffy pop artists; they care about issues, causes, humans, kids, and art. A short history of the group was recently captured at a composite presentation made in San Francisco at a TEDxSF show (TED is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group). The TED gig revealed the group's commitment to lots more than just CD and ticket sales. Their hearts beat for kids all over the world, as well as for social justice issues facing adults in this country and elsewhere.
Scoping Ozomatli's fifteen year history of commitment to music and social issues, the TED show was a cerebral confirmation that this group really does love its art, its art as a tool for social change and a warm hug extended across contention and discord.
But this weekend's Ozokids show was not cerebral confirmation. Seeing them shine for the next generation of Ozo fans, seeing their genuine affection for these kids, I responded emotionally, not intellectually. I became even more smitten with Ozomatli. They love their art. It shows. It's not pretense. It's the real deal. I love seeing such an authentic bond between artists and art. Their passion speaks to me deeply, reverently.