Nigeria’s King Sunny Ade still owes his fairly abundant U.S. name recognition to a brief (1983-’85) tenure on Island Records that coincided with the beginning of American attention to all the unrelated “exotic” non-Western musical styles that have been lumped together for middle-class North American consumers under the loathsome marketing tag “world music.” In a strange way, one almost feels that to single out an upcoming Sunny Ade show for attention is to indulge in cliche. But that’s not Ade’s fault; if he’s still one of the most easily recognized representatives of West African music in this country, it’s a distinction he deserves on the strength of his art. Both on recordings and in a live setting, he still excels at delivering a curiously paradoxical thrill–a superficially Dionysian polyrhythmic riot, nonetheless inhabited at its center by a whispering contemplative calm. It should always be remembered that the subtlety of Ade’s approach–not to mention the onstage presence of 15-some musicians engaging in a contrapuntal exchange in its own way every bit as sophisticated as Bach–puts an unusual amount of pressure on whoever’s in charge of the PA mix. But on a good night, Ade and his band have no trouble transcending our expectations of the “dance party,” using the situation as a launching pad from which to blast off straight into the spiritual. Saturday, 7:30 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage; 929-5959 or 559-1212.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Adam Scher.