Malagasy Shock

Album: Fire Away (2010)

Songfacts®:

  • "Malagasy" means "From Madagascar." This song tells of singer and guitarist Raul Pacheco's harrowing near death experience when he was electrocuted on stage at a show in Madagascar during the group's work on behalf of the US Department of State as cultural ambassadors. Pacheco said in publicity materials: "Sometimes you are shocked into realizing life must be lived with a profoundly energetic fervor." He added after pausing, "...and sometimes you are just actually shocked!"
  • In our interview with Ozomatli bass player Wil-Dog Abers, he explained: "We were in Madagascar playing. We had just gotten on stage and started playing our instruments, and literally the first note that Raul (Pacheco) played – once he got to the mike and he was playing his guitar, the whole P.A.'s current, he became a part of that loop of the current, and he got severely, severely electrocuted, and almost died. We had to stop the show, rush him to the hospital. And luckily he survived. It's a sad thing, because that was our only gig in Madagascar. And we were playing in this park with 10,000 people waiting to hear us, and pretty excited, so it was a bummer. So we got home and we wrote about it. But we started getting into Malagasy music, so we were copying their music in a way, and so we decided to write it about that experience."
    Asked if the song is styled on Malagasy music, Wil-Dog replied: "We were only there for a short time and we didn't learn the music completely, but it's our interpretation of it quickly."
  • So what's this about Ozomatli traveling to Madagascar at the request of the US government? During the George W. Bush administration, Karen Hughes, who was the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, made an effort to send bands around the world to foster goodwill through music. It created an interesting conflict, as Ozomatli opposed the war in Iraq and were not supporters of Bush. Putting politics aside, they toured the Middle East, India and Nepal as cultural ambassadors. During the Cold War, the US State Department commissioned jazz players like Louis Armstrong, Charles Mingus, and Dizzy Gillespie to make similar trips spreading this unique American art form.

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