Occidental Brothers Dance Band International | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Occidental Brothers Dance Band International

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The popularity of African pop music from the 60s and 70s has been on the upswing of late: recent collections like Ghana Soundz, Lagos Chop Up, and Lagos All Routes have enjoyed critical acclaim, and earlier this year Alula Records launched its "Analog Africa" series, which has reissued classic albums from Zimbabwean artists like the Green Arrows and the Hallelujah Chicken Run Band. The music's mostly forgotten in Africa, where there isn't much of a crate-digging culture. But here, the Old Town School of Folk Music has offered classes in African guitar styles, and the locals in the Occidental Brothers Dance Band International bring many of these rare African grooves to life onstage. Nathaniel Braddock, who plays guitar in the Ancient Greeks and the Butchershop Quartet, is the leader of the instrumental combo, and he's taught that class at the Old Town School. But his bright tone and stuttering leads on tunes such as Thomas Mapfumo's jubilant chimurenga "Nyarai" and Franco Luambo Makiadi's "Bomboko Awuti Na New York" dispel any fears that he's taking an academic approach to this material. Alto saxophonist Greg Ward, who's best known for holding down Wednesday nights at the Velvet Lounge, shows a similar love for (and grasp of) the idiom, striking a beseechingly lyrical stance on Orchestra Africa Jazz's "Mokozi Ya Mboko." Kyle Hernandez's booming upright bass and a trio of percussionists rounded out the band when they recorded at Electrical Audio in January; since then they've added Ghanaian trumpeter Kofi Cromwell. They also play a free lunchtime show at the Cultural Center on Friday, April 21; see separate Treatment item for details. Wed 4/26, 8 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707, $10.

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