Music Osibisa had a sedate audience bouncing around

The members of Osibisa were a fun lot. The night began when one of them rolled onto stage in a wheelchair, dressed in Joseph's multi-coloured coat, and the others came in doing a little dance. The audience was sedate, not amused and clapped in response to their flamboyant entrance, completely oblivious to the fact that by the end of the night, Osibisa would have them dancing a tribal dance and hooting a tribal hoot.

Osibisa looked as happy as the proverbial clams; the Afro-rock band from London that has been in the entertainment business for over 40 years was not playing in virgin territory. They had played in Bangalore in 1983, and now they had returned to the city for the Hindu Friday Review November Fest after more than two decades.

Of the six member band, only two remain from the original line-up. Osei Francis Teddy, the founder of the band who has survived multiple surgeries, and moves around in a wheelchair, plays percussion. Tagoe Emmanuel Nii Okinewho was also a part of the band from the beginning, is the bassist. There is also Graham Colin D. on trumpet, Brown Gregory D. on rhythm, Rentzos Emmanuel on keyboard, Asafo-Agyei Herman on lead, Boateng Alexander Okyere on percussion, and Richardson Wendell Lynhurst on drums.

They opened the night with 'Tell Me Why'; the hall reverberated with the sound of the drums and the Conga and the people went from calm and collected to eager and excited. Another crowd favourite was 'Right Now', Osei Francis Teddy instructed them on timing of the double clap, and the band played while the audience gave rhythm.

If anyone was hearing Osibisa for the first time that night they would have recognised 'Khilele' from what Bappi Lahiri rehashed and made 'Jee Le Le' in the movie 'Tarzan' (1985). The night momentarily took a spiritual turn when they started singing 'Raghupati Raghava' - melodic and soothing, this track was a lot quieter initially, before the drums kicked in.

'Ojaye Oja' was another song that has been butchered by our Bollywood. The song however has a languorous feel, which makes you want to stretch beneath a tree in a village in the Congo and drink palm wine. By the time they played 'Kokorokoko', the crowd, emboldened by the beats and the energy, had danced their way onto the stage.

Osibisa are show-men, and they saved their best for last, 'Sunshine Day'. Their most popular track, this time not a single seat remained occupied as everyone in the audience stood up and sang along, or at least made an attempt to sing.

The night was over for the band, but the people had not had enough, 'Oh-Si-Bi-Sa' they chanted repeatedly till the band had no option but to give in to the crowds' clamour. They obliged with 'Celebration' - the audience was happy, the band was happy. All was well with the world.


Criss-cross rhythms that exploded with happinessNovember 29, 2010