Familiar, yet unknown
Fifteen years ago, King Sunny Ade was predicted to be the artist to break African music to the Americans. But like Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba before him, and a half-dozen African stars since, Ade's likable, danceable Afropop failed to gain more than a small cult following in the States.
Listening to Ade's latest album, it's clear that his lack of fame in American is more our loss than his. Ade's smooth vocal harmonies and the syncopated dance rhythms make for a sound that's as accessible as any American pop music.
At the same time, the interplay between the band's outstanding corps of drummers playing a variety of percussion instruments, from talking drums to various hand percussion makes this album anything but run of the mill.
Anyone who enjoyed the various South African musics from Paul Simon's "Graceland" tour or the flurry of U.S. albums released by the participating African musicians will dig Ade's Nigerian juju. While juju is as different from South African styles as, say, Nashville country is from Mexican norteño, the shared African traditions of polyrhythms and call and response vocals will make Ade's music familiar enough to those who know Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
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