Sunday, 9 June 2013

New Africa Shrine, Revisited

Being accused by one of my readers of not keeping my blog up, I feel compelled to post today. Sometimes we take things for granted. I suppose I fall into that boat about the New Africa Shrine, which is no more than 400 meters from my doorstep in the estimation of a colleague from London, who was simply amazed at the music coming out of what is ostensibly my neighborhood bar. I haven’t been going there so often lately as the show has become repetitive for me. However, on Thursday I had a contingent of work visitors from the U.K. and U.S. who wanted to pay homage at the Shrine, despite its rough reputation among the Nigerian professionals in our office. The Shrine’s star shines much more brightly overseas than it does locally.

The three foreign guests were simply stunned by the show that Femi Kuti and Positive Force put on at the Shrine that night. The glow of first experience. The place itself, the front-row table, the band rocking its warm-up set, the full horn section, the percussionists, the dancers both on stage and in cages alongside, the crowd, Femi’s star power, his rap, his circular breathing shtick on alto. All things that have become less impressive to me after dozens of times in the same seat over the past year or so. Time to take a fresh look. I will return tonight.

I saw tenor saxophonist Dotun “Dotsax” Bankole up on stage; he sounded excellent in his one solo feature during the first set. Dotun dropped by my house yesterday for a jam. He doesn't get to showcase his talent on stage as much as he might like and always cuts loose whenever I see him privately. We jammed for about an hour and a half before he had to leave for his far-away home in neighboring Ogun State. Free association, Lester Leaps In, and Milestones were all we had time for. As last time we met, we swapped tenors; we both have silver-plate Mark VIs of about the same vintage and he swears mine sounds better because the silver plate is gone and the bare brass resonates differently. Here is a brief track of Dotun improvising unaccompanied on tenor; he is working on a new album of originals which he expects to be complete in about two months.

Femi and the band will be leaving for a summer tour of the U.S. in a couple of weeks, beginning late June. Tenor fans, look for Dotun on stage if you want to hear one of contemporary Africa's best saxophonists.

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