Les Tetes Brulees | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Les Tetes Brulees

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Les Tetes Brulees take pains to point out that despite the seeming raw unself-consciousness of their "bikutsi rock"--which draws heavily on traditional dance music from the western rain-forest regions of Cameroon--their music is actually a conscious reaction to the slick, flashy makossa style that has held sway in their country since the ascendancy of Manu Dibango in the 1970s. Led by Jean-Marie Ahanda, a former music critic with the Cameroon Tribune, Les Tetes Brulees have mastered a hyperkinetic yet loose and swinging style that affords the kind of held-breath thrill you get from watching stock-car racing. You can hear it on their 1990 album Hot Heads (if somewhat less so on the brand-new and rather more restrained Bikutsi Rock): the drums hammer away like pistons, the guitars cut and thrust, the singer punctuates his song with mischievous delay-echoed chuckles. With so much going on at such a manic pace, you almost get a little nervous about how long all this assorted hardware can hold together. But it not only hangs solid; it hugs the pavement with impeccable style, corners tight, and stops on a dime. I haven't seen Les Tetes Brulees live, but reports of their act describe them executing complex dance steps while they play, and wearing body paint, ripped-up clothes, and Day-Glo backpacks "symbolizing the peasantry of rural Cameroon, who can carry all of their possessions with them." They've also been known to kick a soccer ball around the stage continuously while playing--just to keep things interesting, I guess. Saturday, Culture Club, 864 N. Wabash; 944-5528.

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