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King Sunny Adé (Sunday, April 10th, Cabooze, Minneapolis)
King Sunny Adé - Publicity Photo


By Helen Blodgett

In the Cabooze, there is a giant poster of Elvis facing the stage. And on Sunday night, that musical king watched while two members of Yoruba and Igbo royalty brought their music to Minneapolis: They are King Sunny Adé and Prince Obi Osadebe, respectively.

The tour was initiated by a group of Nigerian doctors flying King Sunny Adé over to celebrate their 40th birthdays together. Since the entire band came (~20 people), the figured it made sense to tour the U.S. while they’re here. In addition, the tour has deeper significance when you look at Nigerian history…

After two coups in 1966, the eastern region (dominated by the Igbo) fought to secede (which they did briefly). Northern Hausa and Fulani started carrying out anti-Igbo massacres, and violence rose up throughout the country. The music of different tribes became politicized as well- Juju music became the party music of the Yoruba (King Sunny Adé) and highlife from Ghana became the party music of the Igbo. This U.S. tour marks the first time that such important Yoruba and Igbo musicians have performed together. (For more history: http://www.citypages.com/databank/26/1270/article13148.asp)

I arrived as Prince Obi Osadebe was performing his last few songs. What I noticed most, was his fluid dancing and the dancing that he inspired in the crowd. Everyone was ready to move to such joyful music.

When it was time for King Sunny Adé to take the stage, it was a very dramatic entrance. First two drummers, wearing matching luxurious clothes, came on stage to start the beat. More drummers followed, building up layers of complexity. Then even more drummers appeared; then a bassist, guitarist, and finally King Sunny Adé and his two singers. I think there were 14 people on stage! And their outfits were shimmering in the light.

Pretty much everyone present let loose dancing. During one song, Adé was joined by two other guitar players, rocking out with the bassist. At one point, three ample women came up to dance, shaking themselves faster than seems possible. Each had a solo shake down as well, wearing gold outfits with layers of fringes to accentuate their movements. Along with these performances, the show was held down by the synchronized dancing of the three singers.

Toward the end of the show, members of the crowd came up on stage to appreciate Adé and his music by placing dollar bills in his hands, on his cheeks, on his neck; just showing him with cash. While people showed their appreciation, Adé sang, praising his patrons. The “spraying” began with Nigerian audience members and after a while, American women started climbing on stage as well, offering money to other musicians in addition to Adé. I don’t know if you’re supposed to disrupt the hierarchy, but they made a lot of money Sunday night- people were monetarily appreciating Adé and his band for at least 45 minutes.

I didn’t hop up on stage, but I will end saying thank you to all the performers for bringing us together to dance and appreciate each other.

Helen Blodgett is h.blodgett@gmail.com