How I met Ozomatli thru Dana Beard the Chinese linguist

I wrote this four years ago and submitted it to Doug Shevlin’s blog. The actual events take place about 12 years ago. But I didn’t know until one half hour ago that Dana Beard went to China, according to The New York Times, with eventual U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, when they both were at Dartmouth. (To be clearer: Dana I knew slightly, via the Daily Dartmouth; I don’t recall meeting Gillibrand, although Melissa Baten Caswell knew her well, and hosted her here recently).

Mike Drake of Oranger and American Sensei is now in Hot Fog.

Ozomatli and Me: or
Ozo BLO y Yo
by Mark Weiss

(submission to MIMS)

Ozomatli (“Don’t Mess with the Dragon”, 2007, Concord Records)’s deep Palo Alto connection was cemented or at least sealed like a fortune cookie at the Schewan Café on Cali Ave in Spring, 1998. I was having dinner there with a college schoolmate of mine, Dana Beard, whom I had bumped into at the post office around the corner a few weeks earlier, after 15 years. She was describing how in her work for Motorola selling semiconductor products to the Asian Market, her accent was so good that she was generally mistaken for a native Chinese speaker and businesswoman. The one time she was outed, Dana claimed, was when her customer used a colloquialism to pronounce their deal done and she had to stop him to ask him what he meant. He had said something that came across to me (in the retelling) as “Chee Toe Mah Lee” which apparently in this Motorola-Asian-Market context means “Go for it!” or “It’s a deal!”. Beard had heard it, however, as
“Horse-head One Thousand” so was understandably a little confused. Apparently “Horse-head One Thousand” to many Chinese people references an image of a horsemen in full gallop, gulping air as he rides across the plain for a thousand miles, “going for it.” (They hear it as “Horse-head Gulping Air Riding One Thousand Miles”).

A couple days later I was on the phone with Jim Haljun, a recent Stanford grad working as an agent at William Morris Agency in Los Angeles. We were discussing his pals in the Stanford-based band American Sensei – veterans of my humble concert series at Cubberley Community Center here, a former high school auditorium, where thanks to people like Haljun, world class bands( Femi Kuti, blink 182, Cake, The Donnas) were dropping in for semi-secret jam sessions and “new artist showcases”. Haljun said that the American Sensei drummer was leaving the band because his med school dean felt he had to focus on school, (and, further, first doing more harm, he didn’t get the name of the band anyways — a reference to “Karate Kid”?). The band was on hiatus and potentially changing their name.

“I have the perfect new name for those guys,” I offered. “Cheetos Molly!” I explained that this name meant kinda sorta “Go For It’ in China and would be a good seque from the remaining guys’ Asian-phillic nom de jam.

“Do you mean Ozo Matli?” countered Jim’s assistant, (apparently I was on speakerphone). The LA industry types explained there was a hot new band but not a client they were keeping their eyes on, holding down a regular gig at a community center down there.

Well for history’s sake, to make a long story short, American Sensei begat Oranger (“Doorway to Norway”, 1998, Amazing Grease records), “Cheetos Molly” is still out there waiting to be claimed, last time I checked MySpace, but Ozomatli has gone on to six cds, three Grammy’s, two Billboard Latin Awards and stints in Nepal, Asia, Africa, South America, and the Middle East as cultural ambassadors for U.S State Department sponsored tours, among its numerous accolades and stories to tell. Not before stopping at the Cubberley in fall, 1998 to rock the house, with opening act Beth Lisick Ordeal aka BLO (“Monkey Girl”, 1997, Manic D Press). Truth be told, Ozo had also played at Stanford shortly before my show; they returned to Palo Alto in 2001 to play a nightclub gig, but the Cub show was, in my humble not-quite-a-dragon more-of-a-rabbit opinion the deal-cementer as far as Plastic Alto Ya Se Fue! is concerned)

One of my fonder concert experiences was being in the front row at Stubb’s outdoors to see Ozomatli backed with Los Lobos during SXSW 2004 (the day before two members of the band and manager Amy Blackman were arrested in Austin, Texas for disturbing the peace in a post concert jam session that, like at many Ozo shows, spilled into the streets).

I recommend “After Party” from “Dragon” as song of the day for MIMS, and in honor of Barack H. Obama and Austin’s finest.

edit to add: the epilogue to this is that as of 2010 and the World Cup I believe the “horse head one thousand” “cheeto molly” is the same word or story as “chollima” the mascot of the North Korean soccer team, a winged horse that carries its rider an impressive distance. And definitely distinct from Chester the Cheetah, which like Cheetos themselves are properties of Pepsi-Co and Frito-Lay. There also, able search-injuns will find, indeed a lady named Molly obsessed by the crunchy snack product. The other b(r)and names this recalls are Naked Barbies, who on and off fight with Mattel, and, according to my Oaxaca/DF correspondent, a rock band named Tabasco who conceded to the Louisiana-based pepper sauce company not to tour here on that moniker even if they were actually from Tabasco, MX.

Wiki has in Pan-Asian, but focused in North Korea, meaning “thousand-mile-horse”, and similar, as a movement, to Great Leap Forward. I also recall that at that dinner I had Dana read only the Chinese side of my bilingual fortune (from the cookie) and explain to me what it must be predicting or suggesting for me — and I still wonder what it actually said. I see that I actually went over this in a previous self-footnote, in April, 2011, following something about Rob Syrett at Roll Up. To wit:

Chollima is Korean flying horse eerily (but not Erie-ly) similar to the story Dana Beard told me about, what I heard as “cheeto molly” or “horse head 1,000″ meaning “go for it” or, as above “gulp air and ride”. Dana, who I met at Daily Dartmouth, was selling high tech by phone from Palo Alto to China and was stumped by an idiomatic phrase that her customer used to say “It’s a deal” or “go for it.” When she related, even inaccurately, her story to me, and I repeated it to Stanford grad and then William Morris agent Jim Haljun, apropos of a new name for the rock band fragments American Sensei and Oranger –I was suggesting “Cheeto” –like the snack food — “Molly” like the girls’ name — it was suggested to me that I be an early adapter and buyer and promoter of, Ozomatli.

About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player; he also sang in local choir, and fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32
This entry was posted in ethniceities, media, Plato's Republic and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s