King Sunny Ade invades Boulder

E je ka jooooo! Ka anyi gbaa egwu! (That's "let's dance!" in Yoruba and Igbo, respectively).

Last night Lori and I went to see King Sunny Ade at The Boulder Theatre.

The concert started with a very lukewarm opening set by Obi Obadebe (whom my friend Ejovi AKA Joe thought was related to the great musician Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe). Always wonder when you see a West African band with three players. We don't do very much part-way, and our bands typically start with eight musicians. It was cool to hear highlife played in public in the U.S. outside my parent's circle, but somehow I'm doubtful about the Obadebe/Osadebe connection. Apparently Boulder is a bit of a hot spot for highlife musician visitors, mostly Ghanaian, and there is a big highlife concert coming up this Friday. I'll have to pay attention.

Anyway, Sunny Ade himself took the stage with a band of 12, and completely commanded it. I love watching the subtleties of great band leaders (Buckwheat Zydeco is a good example). Ade worked flawless timing and very clean playing out of his big group with deft looks, nods, and gestures. I've always marveled at how highlife, soukous and juju bands have such sharp and clear instrumentation, and I caught a glimpse of the process on stage.

Most importantly, the music was wonderful. Playful, energetic, thick, punctuated by the insistent talking drum (Ade probably makes better use of the talking drum than any other popular musician). Ade hopped around the stage like a man 30 years his junior. The audience followed his lead (as usual for Boulder there were a lot of hippies, old and new). They even crowded the stage to "spray" the musicians. Fun to see some of our traditions embraced by others. Ade occasionally gave a charge the revels by bringing out the heavy duty dancing girls. I found myself doing all the old high school / college dances from O wa mbe to Foot Patrol.

Lori jammed a good bit, for one almost 6 months pregnant (not that preganacy has ever done much to dampen her energy). She went to the sitting area for the occasional spell, but she had a lot of fun. We ran into my friend Joe and his girlfriend Carmella. Joe and I chatted about our own memories of Nigerian music in Nigeria, (we're 20 and 15 years removed, respectively, from the actual country). Carmella is from Galicia and before Ade came on we chatted about the parallels between Spain's politics of regional nationalism and Nigeria's. One point I made was that political differences in Nigeria tended to fail in two areas: food and music. To be sure, music like Ade's is pretty universal, especially live, as it should be, and last night's experience underscored that point.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia