Five years ago, the City of Los Angeles officially declared April 23 as “Ozomatli Day” to commend the homegrown, genre-defying, GRAMMY-winning band. This most recent “Ozomatli Day” was especially significant for the band—they marked their 20th anniversary together making electro-cumbia/garage rock/hip-hop/Pérez Prado mambo infused tunes, and also released a new song and music video celebrating the Los Angeles Public Library’s Summer Fun program.
“We’ve always used this day to raise awareness,” explains Ozomatli guitarist and composer Raúl Pacheco (pictured below with guitar). The socially-conscious band, which formed out of a labor protest and has served as Cultural Ambassadors for the U.S. State Department, holds the Los Angeles Public Library very close to their hearts. Many of the members of Ozomatli grew up visiting their local branches, including Pacheco, who as a native Boyle Heights resident frequents the Robert Louis Stevenson Branch.
Because of their strong ties to the Library and the city—and the fact that they have previously released music for kids—it was a perfect fit for the Library Foundation to ask Ozomatli to compose the first-ever theme song in this program’s 80+ year history. More than 40,000 children and teens across the city are anticipated to take part in the program, formerly called the Summer Reading Clubs.
Providing a crucial out-of-school enrichment program during the summer break, Summer Fun at the Library will offer a range of musically-themed activities, workshops, performances, reading resources and prizes, in addition to free lunch at select locations. Summer Fun is about flexing your mind, exploring your imagination, and being part of a community of learners. In a city where too many students are reading and writing below grade-level proficiency, this summer enrichment program has become a vital resource to help young people succeed in school.
“The idea of having free access to reading and research materials and to the Internet is super important to our society and to our communities,” says Pacheco about Ozomatli’s interest in the program. With some guidance from the Library Foundation and a team of librarians, Ozomatli created an upbeat, funk-infused original song called “Read to the Rhythm” to inspire young Angelenos to make the Library a recurring destination this summer. They also shot a music video featuring over 100 kids and parents partying at the Central Library. “This project is about reminding people how cool it is to have this place,” says Pacheco. “If people are not integrated into it yet, it’s about making people lifelong fans of the Library.”
As a child, Pacheco says he never imagined he could make a career out of music, but he says, “This band is there for us to fulfill our dreams like libraries are there for kids.” Summer Fun at the Library will take place from June 8 to August 1. For a full schedule of upcoming activities, visit lapl.org/summerreading.