“One of my favorite Manu Chao songs is ‘Bienvenidos a Tijuana,’” says Santiago Orozco of reggae/latin/acoustic group Todo Mundo. “I love this song. It has a line that says, ‘I want to go to San Diego, but I can’t.’ And always this sentence was magic, like, ‘You should go there and check it out.’ Everybody thinks I’m crazy for that. But it’s the heart feelings. Signs.”
The 24-year-old Bogotá, Colombia native followed the signs to San Diego in 2008 and for the first time played the streets of Ocean Beach with a Russian friend accompanying on hand drums.
“We played for three hours and made one dollar,” Orozco laughs as we drink sangria on the patio of El Camino in South Park.
Unfazed, the duo continued busking in the Gaslamp and at farmers’ markets in Ocean Beach, Little Italy, and Hillcrest.
“I saw people appreciating the music, giving tips. I said, man, I’m doing what I love. That was like a sign for me in my life. Playing in the streets was so magical for me. I start to meet people, a beautiful girl, everything was so happy. So I was tempted to stay.”
After four months in Argentina, Orozco ditched his cinematography career and returned to San Diego to pursue music.
“The thing about live music is that it’s in the moment. I’m singing and I connect with you in the moment. The most sacred for me, more than anything, is the live music.”
Now joined by Jake Sibley on the cajón (a Peruvian percussive box) and fellow Colombian Fabio Alejo on keys, Orozco plays nearly every day of the week, wherever people gather on the streets.
“For Todo Mundo, the street is the best school. In life, in music, the street is the best. You are naked there. People can think you are crazy. But it is there where you show what you are, just what you have. The street taught me a lot, and the most, most important thing: the connection with people. Todo Mundo means everybody together. It’s a movement to bring a lot of people together and see that we are just one in this life. If you talk to the people in the band, all they want is to make people dance. If we can make you forget your worries, we are doing a good job.”