Afro-pop rhythms set Kochi afire

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PULSATING MUSIC: British Afro-pop band Osibisa performing in the city on Friday.
PULSATING MUSIC: British Afro-pop band Osibisa performing in the city on Friday.

S. Anandan

KOCHI: The laidback waters of Kochi came alive with the British Afro-pop band Osibisa churning out legendary foot-tapping numbers that had its denizens sway to the African drumbeat in one exalted synergy.

The band that arguably founded world music with its resonant, pulsating rhythms in the 1970s and 1980s had only aged with grace, as the who’s who of the city realised on Friday, when Teddy Osie, Osibisa’s founder musician, and his team performed under the aegis of Jtpac alongside a partaking audience to drum up an evening of accord.

The fecundity of African music was there to feel as the band broke into a flurry of time-tested hits opening with the effervescent ‘Dawn’ and ‘Fire’ sliding on to the perennial ‘Ojaye Oja’.

The soulful rendition of ‘Raghupati Raghava…’ had the glitterati of the city get on their feet to cheer their African brethren in an unmistakable spirit of camaraderie.

‘Right Now’, the audience seemed to agree with the band when it belted out: “We want peace in the world…. Save the children, right now”.

The monsoon drizzle lingered on for the three hours the Osibisa took the city by storm; so was an upbeat crowd that braved the rain to croon alongside the iconic masters.

There was one song for the family, too. ‘Killele killele aao aao killele’, announced Osie in his baritone voice, “In Ghana, families get together over palm wine to hum it — ‘Let’s do it together’”.

“Are you happy?” he quizzed the crowd every time a song got over. The thunderous response meant they were not only happy, but were rather bowled over.

Osibisa, meaning ‘crisscross rhythms that explode with happiness’, according to the band members, prodded the audience to shun inhibitions to be one with it in rejoicing in exquisite musical pieces.

Philosophical note

A song from their second album, ‘Woyaye’ (We’re going, heaven knows where we’re going), begun on a philosophical note, had the audience thrown back to the 1970s when Osibisa forced its entry into the music scene with powerful, distinctive music.

The band was on a roll in the following years, touring Japan, Australia, African and India, but the arrival of punk and disco sent it down the popularity charts. While its music remained largely popular, income was hard to come by without royalty. In 1996, Osie revitalised it and despite a stroke, continues to lead it from the front.

“Sing and dance with us, you are a part of the show,” a vibrant Osei kept reminding the crowd comprising the youth, men and women of all ages and families with little children, all through. Earlier, Thrithala Melam by famed percussion artist Mattannur Sankaran Kutty held the audience captivated ahead of the Osibisa performance.

Besides Osie; Colin Graham on trumpet; Kofi Avivor on Congas; Sol Amarifo on drums; Bessa Simons, Kwame Yeboah and Chris Jerome on keyboards; Kari Bannerman and Gregg Kofi Brown on guitars; and Victor Mensah on bass guitar are the current team members of Osibisa.

The band will now strum up yet another musical evening before a sold-out audience at The Music Academy auditorium in Chennai in the November Fest event on Sunday.

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