For those who haven’t read my previous post on this topic, I’m referring to my love affair with African dance. I realise ‘African’ is a massive umbrella term so I’ll be more specific. The styles I’m in love with, and know the most about, are mainly West and Central African.
I left off in the last post implying that between 15 and 25 my life was a barren wasteland because I had no contact with African music. Strictly speaking this may not be true. I certainly was hearing a lot of reggae and two-tone, and it was the late 70s, early 80s, so it seems likely that I can across at least Fela Kuti. I can’t really remember. This is possibly because for several years I had quite a lot to do with certain recreational substances that affect memory, but I think that probably I really didn’t hear anything that grabbed me in the way the drum beat did when I was 15.
I did keep dancing during this time. I did classes and the odd performance with fringe dance & theatre groups. In one of them I even got to wear an extraordinarily uncomfortable, tower-like illuminated bird-headdress and slide down banisters on the outside of the Sydeny Opera House. In another I had to portray deep emotion whilst reciting a love poem. It wasn’t difficult, the object of my on-stage desire had his fly undone. It’s amazing how barely controlled hysterical laughter can come across as deep passion. So yes, when I say odd ….
I had friends who were volunteer DJs at the independent radio station Skid Row. Thanks to them I discovered all different kinds of music, including one of my all time favourites, Nigerian Master Guitarist King Sunny Ade. The first time I heard Sunny Ade I was mopping the dining room floor in a resort at Fitzroy Island, offshore from Cairns. This is because I was on an adventure around Australia and working for a few weeks as a waitress. The dining room was the only place on the island that had a cassette player, and a friend of mine had sent me of two cassette compilations of her own selection, which included tracks from a diverse bunch of musicians: various Sydney indie bands, Gil Scott Heron, Astrud Gilberto, and two tracks from Sunny Ade. Once again, I had never heard anything like it. And that’s why I figured it must be African. Even though it was far different to my previous experience of African music, no other explanation fitted. Turned out I was right, though I had to wait six months until I got back to Sydney to ask my friend. This is one of the tracks I heard:
This is the other one. I think of it as an anthem to all those men in nightclubs who want your number within 3 minutes of meeting you. Actually if Sunny Ade had been one of those men I may just have given it to him. Anyway …. one of the reasons I love his music is because he does things with a guitar that I didn’t know were possible. Subtle, complex, flowing, you want it to go on forever and it feels like it will. Wow. After growing up on a diet of strumming, this track was a revelation to me. Amazing things can be done if you put an African musician together with a few strings.
I was pleased to find out that he is still going strong & even performed in the US as recently as June. But why doesn’t he come to Australia!?!? I will tell you my theory about Australia and African musicians in my next post.