King Sunny Ade | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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King Sunny Ade

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Nigerian juju maestro King Sunny Ade's upcoming performance is billed as a "dance party," and indeed it will be, but saying so is a little like describing Verdi's Aida as a "medley of pretty songs." To these ears, Ade's 1984 album, Aura, remains the most inventive dance record of the decade; it's too bad Island Records canceled his American recording contract after that milestone. Fronting a sleek and supple umpteen-member ensemble featuring everything from hand-held talking drums to pedal steel guitar, Ade's reach is cosmopolitan and cross-cultural. Once the syncopated layers of polyrhythmic percussion work into an infectious groove, swirls and ripples of guitars, synths, and traditional Yoruba folk melodies make the dancing in your head equal to the dancing in your appendages. Ade's many moods range from the hypnotic frenzy of "Ase" to the lilting ebb and flow of concert staples such as "Ja Funmi" and "Maajo." When I saw the band in Manhattan last week, they surpassed my high expectations with a version of "Mo Ti Mo"--balanced between graceful hesitation and gorgeous exuberance that blew away the recorded versions of the song. The "Golden Mercury of Africa" is back, and this time, I hope it's for keeps. Sunday, 8 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage; 929-5959.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Larry Kodani.

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