Soji & the Afrobeat Band plus Naia Kete – September 8, 2012

ashkenazsojireviewMaking his debut as a leader of his own band and celebrating the release of his CD, “In the Flow,” Nigeria’s legendary guitar master and singer Soji Odukogbe was, among other things, the lead guitarist for the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s groundbreaking Afrobeat band. Odukogbe draws on an extensive background in Nigerian Afrobeat, highlife, and spiritual music, bringing a unique sensibility to his highlife guitar interpretations. He has become well-known since moving to the Bay Area, where he is a member of the West African Highlife Band, Babá Ken & Afrobeat ConneXion, Kotoja, and the Nigerian Brothers. But tonight he steps into the spotlight to lead his new Afrobeat Band, featuring guitars, drums, and horns. He and the band set the dance floor afire with a churning, polyrhythmic style that he simply calls, “authentic original Afrobeat like Fela’s type of music, the traditional Afrobeat that nobody does” in a world of endless Afro-fusions. Most of the music comes from his new CD, full of Odukogbe’s original songs and arrangements, “except for a few of Fela’s that I will perform onstage only.”

Young opening singer Naia Kete’s music is a personal/political soul-trip, as grounded and articulate as it is emotive. Her mix of soul and jazz with inspiring lyrics makes for a rousing live performance. Kete grew up in the hills of western Massachusetts, where she played and sang in her family reggae band. Now living in Los Angeles, she writes her songs from the heart. “Community is so important to me,” she explains. “A lot of what I try to convey in my music is that I feel like it’s truly time for the people of the world to unite in order to create peace and joy. It has to start in the home, and next in your extended family and community. I wouldn’t be singing and writing in the way that I do if it wasn’t for the people who have touched my life and heart so dearly.”


Creativity Boost with AfroBeat – September 17, 2012

artisanterritorysojireviewFeeling a bit stuck in the creative process, I headed out to find something out of my middle of the road track. With so many great artists and musicians in the area, so many art openings and performances to choose from, I went on a friend’s recommendation to see Soji and the AfroBeat Band perform at Ashkenaz in Berkeley.

Soji Odukogbe played a lively set, fronting a band of 15 guitars, drums and full horn section for about 2 hours of dance-floor swaying, bopping and jamming. Soji’s contagious smile and spirit started each song melodically, with chorus spilling over into playful riffs so contagious both audience and band members danced along. There were no wallflowers to be seen as the rhythm moved everyone and the momentum carried us through song after song.
Did it help shake things up? Definitely. Did I get a good cardio workout complete with endorphins? Absolutely. How will I translate the rhythmic music, colorful costumes and lighting, and lovely smiles into creative energy? Not sure yet. But there’s no denying the energy boost and the shift in perception that I will carry into my next creative endeavor.