Boston Herald, Concert Review >>
Nigerian Afropop star King Sunny Ade came home Wednesday night - or, more accurately, returned to the city that embraced Africa’s answer to Bob Marley when he introduced his joyfully chugging juju music to Boston in the early ’80s.
A few things have changed since then. This time, instead of a packed and sweaty show at the Hynes Convention Center, the venue was the MFA’s coolly pleasant outdoor courtyard. The band of 12 was about half the size of Ade’s past touring troupes. And most of the audience was gray-haired enough to have actually been at the Hynes more than 25 years ago.
But the crowd had no trouble getting going once the 62-year-old Ade and his African Beats revved up their nonstop polyrhythmic dance machine. For nearly two hours, the singer/guitarist (and actual member of a Nigerian royal family) led his percussion and guitar-heavy group through buoyant songs culled from his more than 120 albums.
The set’s initial languorous tempo was age appropriate and built to a bright, relentless groove shot through with ringing guitar lines and propelled by a raft of percussion, including four talking drums. The MFA courtyard soon became a grass dance floor packed with gyrating, barefoot fans.
Other band mates joined Ade’s high tenor on continual calls and responses - sung in Yoruban - and lengthy unison phrases that recalled Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s deep-throated vocalizing.
An audience that included many African ex-pats and fans decked in African clothing helped heat up the night by dancing onto the stage. Many of them showered Ade and the rest of the band with money, a traditional way to show respect that brought grins of appreciation from the players.
Ade’s juju incorporated sounds not just from Africa, but from the Caribbean, too. The result was a breezy, feel-good sound perfect for a not-quite-tropical night in Boston.
Ade never did become the transcendent star in the United States that reggae legend Marley did, partly because he sang only rarely in English. But that has never mattered to his fans in the Hub. They consider him a world music king and got to show their respect one more time by singing along on his exuberant parting tune, “Africa and America.” 07/16/09 >> go there