He transformed a sold-out Sheldon Concert Hall a few years back into a glorious and carefree dance party with his African juju music, a music he pioneered and perfected in his Nigerian home in the mid-'70s that combines freaky African percussion breakdowns; needling, hypnotic guitar lines; call-and-response conversations; expansive structures; and an overall feeling of celebration. You can hear traces of his music in early hip-hop tracks, in the later music of the Talking Heads (and especially in David Byrne and Brian Eno's amazing My Life in the Bush of Ghosts), in Paul Simon's Graceland and in the Orb's Orblivion. It's party music, pure and simple, with piles of texture and rhythm.
Imagine a dozen or so musicians and a half-dozen or so vocalists/dancers in perfect rhythmic sync, concentrating on one powerful beat -- pounding it, caressing it, twirling it, shaking it, fucking it, ultimately getting totally lost in it -- and smiling uncontrollably as they dote on it. Onstage they're a bundle of joy, and the joy rubs off on even the most reserved audience members. Gush, gush, gush. If you've ever seen King Sunny Ade, you understand: He and his African Beats are basically an African big band, and they know how to party. If you haven't seen them, go. If you're in the middle of an existential crisis, this is the remedy. Bliss. Joy. The Meaning of Life. Run.
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