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When Africa conquered

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AFRICAN RHYTHMS It was an extraordinary performance with the African members of the audience dancing right from the word go, and finally ending up on the stage
AFRICAN RHYTHMS It was an extraordinary performance with the African members of the audience dancing right from the word go, and finally ending up on the stage

The pop performance by Ivorian group Zo-Gang was a fascinating combination of exotic music styles and an unencumbered stage presence

The sensuality of the African peoples is an oft-repeated cliché that one normally takes with a pinch of salt. But watching the Zo-Gang troupe from Cote d'Ivoire perform at Chowdiah Memorial Hall last Friday, one realised that even clichés have their origins in truth. The event, organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and the Embassy of Republique de Cote d'Ivoire, featured the vocal talents of Frederick Ehui Desire Said Meiway sung over pre-recorded music, with four luscious dancers for support.To say that Meiway entertained the crowd for close to an hour and a half with zoblazo, his unique blend of African folk music forms, would be an understatement. Almost as soon as Meiway and crew took stage, some two dozen Ivorians and other African students studying in the city, descended on the front of the auditorium for what can only be described as an impromptu frat party.As Meiway sang unique, peppy, bass-heavy numbers about everything from God to alluring mammaries, the gathered participants went into a heady trance, waving around the white handkerchiefs that are symbolic of the music. "The white handkerchiefs symbolise joy, purity and peace. We don't take any alcohol or smoke. This is about our belief in the music," said Meiway.And believe in the music the audience did. Indeed, some of the more well-endowed audience members seemed barely able to contain themselves.But it wasn't just fun and entertainment. Meiway also had a bit of advice on a subject close to the African heart: AIDS. "When you are with a girl, go step by step. And the first step is wearing a condom," he helpfully advised. But perhaps the most heartening message came through in the choice of dancers for the show. Quite unlike the wispy waifs that normally people such stages, these dancers looked more like some of us, and managed to shake some booty too. Perhaps this is the best way for international cultural relations to be handled: with spirit, energy and a fascinating sense of abandon. RAKESH MEHAR

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