It started 18 years ago as an already-complex Southern Californian blend of Latino musical spices, of cumbia and merengue, chilies and cilantro, hip-hop and funk.
As Ozomatli began to gain momentum, it took those flavors and styles around the world adding a pinch of Tunisia, a dash of Nepal at each passport station.
Even with multiple Grammy Awards on the shelves back home in Los Angeles, Ozomatli continues to evolve as one of the most infectious and eclectic live acts in music.
If you're trying to pin a style or button-hole a genre on Ozomatli, it might be a futile effort. Fun, but futile, and Modesto-area residents will get their chance to try when the band visits the State Theatre on April 12.
"The label always seems to be based on whoever is listening to us at the moment," said Ulises Bella, who handles the saxophone, keyboard, melodica and some of the vocals for Ozomatli.
"We won Grammys for Latin Alternative and I have no idea what that means (laughs) ... that could mean anything, bro. When we used to sell CDs I'd see our discs in the punk section, in the world music section, in the Latin section, or even in the rock section.
"I tell people that we play party music dance music that's influenced from the world. It's hard to tag us because every song has a different style or contains different styles."
With all those spices and styles in play, the only certainty is that this seven-piece band cooks.
"When we first started, everybody came through with different influences and different levels of music education," said Bella, who at 38 is the band's second-youngest member. "We realized early that we didn't want to be caught up in any one style, so we used all those influences at our disposal, and the main influence was that we all grew up in Los Angeles.
"We're taking cues from a long tradition of bands who mixed the influences and styles of where they came from, like Santana, Fishbone and Sly and the Family Stone, Oingo Boingo."
Ozomatli was born of activism. Its first show was at a party thrown as abenefit to workers embroiled in a labor dispute.
"From the very first gig people were reacting to this ensemble, to the energy," Bella said. "We knew immediately that we had something special."
The members continued to use their talents to promote social causes in and around Los Angeles, but as Ozomatli grew, so did the activist stages.
They've received the National Council of La Raza Humanitarian Award, have twice played for President Obama and were made official U.S. cultural ambassadors when they took part in a series of State Department tours to Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East.
"Where the music has gone and how the band has grown is beyond anybody's expectation." Bella said.
They are the official sound of Los Angeles by city decree, every April 23 is Ozomatli Day but the band's music extends without limits beyond the TMZ.
"We've been to almost 50 countries, and there's no way we could have known we would do that when we first started, or that we would become official cultural ambassadors, or would have won Grammys."
The Ozomatli whirlwind is beginning to slow down. The band has branched into children's music and is testing the waters of the Hollywood side of Los Angeles with the goals of looking to write musical scores for television and perhaps grab one of those prime gigs as a house band for a television show think The Roots with Jimmy Fallon.
"We could play shows all our lives and be fine," Bella said. "The live shows have enabled us to show that we're an amazing band. At the same time, we don't want to slug it out on the road as much as we used to, so you eventually have to start thinking outside the box. What else can we do as a band to make this move along?"
For now, it's just a matter of staying on the move, to absorb as much from each performance as do the audiences.
"We get an amazing reception in Northern California," Bella said. "There's that whole NorCal rivalry garbage, but when it comes to the band, San Francisco and Sacramento are two of our best cities to play in. People have accepted us as a California band that the whole state can embrace."
Places to play, spices to add to the stew.
"It's crazy that since we've toured internationally for 10 years, we're still picking up the influences and styles of all the places we've traveled, and that's all showing up in the music," Bella said.
"When we first started it was so organic just a bunch of guys cooking up music to help a cause."
Brian VanderBeek can be reached at(209) 578-2150 or follow him on Twitter, @modestobeek
WHEN: 8 p.m. April 12
WHERE: State Theatre, 1307 St., Modesto
CALL: (209) 527-4697