If Ozomatli ever found a musical genre it didn't like, it would probably go ahead and play it anyway. The 10-piece Los Angeles band, which headlined Sunday night at Nation, mixes diverse Latin American styles with hip-hop, funk, rock, reggae and much more. Ozomatli's set included many songs as rambunctious as "Saturday Night," whose syncopated funk suggested a Chicano cousin of D.C.'s own go-go. But the group also performed a lilting Mexican ballad and a Bollywood-flavored number that spotlighted Japanese American tabla player Jiro Yamaguchi.
The highlights drew heavily from Ozomatli's new album, "Street Sounds," including the title track and "(Who Discovered) America?," whose message was underscored by video images of U.S.-Mexican conflict. The assured eclecticism of the band's recordings wasn't always evident onstage, however. The two rappers' audience-participation gambits sometimes overpowered the music, and the flow from song to song was choppy. Despite stirring moments, overall the show was a bit ungainly.
Kinky, the Mexican band that preceded Ozomatli, has five fewer members and two or three fewer influences. The quintet did venture into reggae and traditional Mexican music, and gave a straightforward rendition of Tito Puente's "Oye Como Va" (best known to rock fans from Santana's version). Its core style, however, was a hybrid of alt-rock and electronica.
While rock dominated in such tuneful songs as "Snapshot" and "Presidente," the group sometimes ventured into more abstract, beat-heavy territory. The latter sound suited the cold, slightly harsh acoustics of the club, which usually features stark, booming dance music. Kinky couldn't equal Ozomatli's exuberance, yet its set was the more cohesive of the two. Perhaps simply because of a more manageable lineup, the band managed to range widely without getting lost.
-- Mark Jenkins