By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Twenty-four hours before the concert was scheduled, representatives of the local township gave a note to the guards at the American Club that said the State Department had not informed the township of the event. The department responded on Friday morning by sending a copy of the earlier diplomatic note, which seemed to satisfy them.
By this point, news has started to spread about Yettaw, the American who was captured in the lake on the morning the band arrived in Burma. On the evening of May 4, he sank into Inya Lake with homemade fins, toting with him a strange collection of items that he wanted to get to Suu Kyi. Uninvited and seemingly unconcerned that his visit would violate the terms of The Lady’s house arrest and jeopardize her possible release, Yettaw swam to the shore of her home and, carrying what state news reports say included a video camera, two black Muslim robes, veils, sunglasses and several books, including the Book of Mormon, he entered her compound and met with her. She urged him to leave immediately, but he said he was too tired. He left two days later, and was arrested on May 6 on the opposite shore.
Suu Kyi, her two caretakers and her doctor were all arrested and charged soon thereafter. Suu Kyi remains at Insein Prison, where she was taken after the incident, and with the recent removal of the security surrounding her house, which included drop-down gates, barbed-wire fences and full-time guards, it appears that the government has no intention of releasing her back into house arrest. (Yettaw has since been dubbed “The American Fool” by the Bangkok Post.)
By 5:30 p.m., a few hundred people have gathered, many of them Western expats desperate for something, anything to do. The locals start trickling in, and the second of two opening acts performs — a local rapper named J-Me, who, while forbidden to rap about politics, focuses on the universally understood language of, in his words, “bitches, money and weed.”
Wil-Dog’s six-student entourage from the music school arrives. Wide-eyed and wearing their best clothes, they look a little frightened, especially the little boy, who hasn’t smiled once. This is the first time they’ve ever been out of their neighborhood.
They take a spot standing in the front row, their heads peeking just above the stage. J-Me the rapper prowls around, at one point nearly stepping on the children’s fingers. The crowds keep coming, and the concrete space, about the size of two tennis courts, is soon filled.
Ozomatli step onstage right at 6 p.m., and pretty quickly it’s clear that the Scrutiny Board hasn’t screened the lyrics to “Saturday Night,” as Porée rhymes the lyrics: “People to places the message basic/from raised fist to sit-ins resist to change shit/Peep this scenario/to the future, bro/2020 and some number of years ago/people rose up, governments froze up/worldwide block party, everybody shows up.”
If only it were that simple. Sing a song with words of hope, the crowd hears them and decides that tomorrow night the revolution will begin.
Nobody’s naive enough to believe in that, not least Ozomatli. But that doesn’t stop the band. During the encore, Wil-Dog runs over to his little posse and motions them up. They look confused. He smiles, takes one of them by the hands, lifts her up onto the stage and outfits her with maracas. Soon all six are up, and they’re jumping and playing in rhythm. The boy, nervous down below, has a confused smile on his face. He looks around, takes a shaker, and starts jumping enthusiastically while staring at the crowd before him.
As the final song winds down, Ozomatli do their signature move. Each of the band members grabs a portable instrument, and as the crowd continues to dance, the band descends from the stage into the citizenry and starts a dance train. The trumpet and the saxophone blare through the night as the rest of the band bangs on tablas, maracas and tambourines and the crowd bounces and claps along, laughing and dancing behind the best Latin/cumbia/salsa/hip-hop drum corps ever to grace a Burmese stage.
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