Millennium Park, one of Chicago’s downtown public space jewels, hosts free concerts on Monday and Thursday nights during the summertime. They take place at the Pritzker Pavilion, a landmark Frank Gehry designed bandshell. I should go more often – it’s a real treat to sit out on a blanket snacking and watching music with friends. Though seating is available closer to the stage, most prefer to pack a picnic. Like most excursions, I seem to need a friend to initiate. Happily, that’s exactly what happened last night – one rounded up a small group to go see a couple of Nigerian acts –King Sunny Ade and Ugochi.
Ugochi and her Afro Soul Ensemble were up first. The music builds on traditional Nigerian sounds with a jazz twist and a little bit of American R&B. She had three male backup singers. The website for the concert reports that Ugochi “was Born in Chicago to Nigerian parents, [that she] is an Afro-soul singer, songwriter and poet who is known for her extremely versatile and creative music and performances.”
Also according to the concert website, “King Sunny Ade, pictured, is the undisputed king of juju music, the dance-inspiring hybrid of western pop and traditional African music with roots in the guitar tradition of Nigeria. Ade launched his own record label in 1974 and has released more than 100 of his own recordings in Nigeria.” He sang with a mostly male ensemble, though they were joined by two women toward the end of the set whose gyrations reminded the audience that twerking is not exclusive to kids these days. King Sunny Ade’s music seemed more traditionally Nigerian to me, full of tight harmonies from the male vocals as well as percussion.
A good time was had by all.
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