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Stay positive: Ozomatli brings love and the independent media to Spaceland

January 15, 2009 |  3:44 pm

Ozobenefit_175 Today, many of us mourn the loss of Indie 103.1, and rightly so. The station's programming was a boon to lovers of independent pop and one of the only places on terrestrial radio where real DJ's still explored their heart's desires. Plus ... Jonesy. That guy is one in a million.

It's right to be angry about the soulless nature of focus-group-dominated corporate broadcasting, and to lament the loss of decent rock radio virtually anywhere but on the Internet. (I wouldn't call KCRW rock radio, per se, so no need to write an angry letter, Jason Bentley!) Indie 103.1 bridged the gap between the mainstream and the underground and catapulted itself into the league of legendary rock stations like Rev 105 in the Twin Cities and KMPX in San Francisco. Its presence on the airwaves was a healthy belch in the face of consolidation.

But let's not turn our grief against Spanish-language stations.

Spanish-language radio is a vital force in Los Angeles, providing necessary information to listeners who may not be able to jump on the Internet, and celebrating the music and culture of a community that's crucial to the future of our region.

Spanish-language radio has its own Jonesy in Juan Carlos Raza, a.k.a. Don Cheto, profiled in 2007 in this newspaper by Agustin Gurza, and more recently by Josh Kun in Los Angeles magazine. In that article, Kun makes the point that "Los Angeles has become not only a Mexican city but also a rural Mexican city brimming with immigrants who only recently left behind lives on ranches and farms," and that the music those listeners love -- norteno, banda, ranchero -- is as relevant as anything you'll hear on "hipper" stations.

Admittedly, Spanish-language radio and the rocker-hipster aesthetic Indie 103.1 represented don't seem to interact well. Ozomatli had a stint last year hosting the morning show on KYSR-FM (98.7), but the gig ended after two months, reportedly because of low ratings and the band's conflicting tour schedule.

But Ozo is making a stand this week for community media -- On Jan. 16, the band brings its always raucous and hopeful show to the Echoplex to benefit two grass-roots media groups: Jornaleras Presente, a media research project representing female day laborers within the National Day Laborer Organizing Network; and the independent media center El Centro de Comunicaci√≥n Comunitaria. Good causes, great bands -- come on down and dance out your Indie blues.

-- Ann Powers

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