Guys, my excitement is almost palpable. If the subject of today’s blog post cuts a blesser’s figure, then I am, without doubt, glad to be one of her blessees! You see, in the midst of March brouhaha and end-month jollity, Maia has uploaded this video of the first single off her second studio album, Maia & The Big Sky. The central mystery of the song is the idea that power is that which controls the mind. Based as it is on a powerful theme, I am happy to report that Pawa is a classic.

The setting begins in a newsroom and in those brief seconds before the lyrics are heard, we are introduced to the song’s rhythmic motif. Perhaps it is Maia’s intention to extend the vibration of her guitar and I’ve got to hand it that it works pretty well. The reverential visuals are artistically pivotal in allowing the song’s narrative to gently unfold in the listener’s imagination.

Pawa ni ile, pawa ni ile inacontrol fikra zako.

Of-course it is Maia and Blinky Bill’s singing, delivered with notable poise, that takes the spotlight. But so are the lucid movements of the dancer and the band’s superb carriage of Pawa’s steady ostinato! The whole band achieves an incredible liquidity as the trombone blares over the pulsating percussion and dancing strings. One more detail that I loved too was the open-air performance. The setting, as well as Maia’s costume, was enough to sum up everything that made this whole production so glorious!

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“Who is she? Who is she?” I remember asking myself way back in 2013 as I came across some colleagues printing sleeves for her first album. Now, it is no secret that Maia Von Lekow is a musician I cannot help loving, and that the more I listen to her, the more she fascinates me. And just as I was none the wiser, it’s extremely unlikely that you too will be asking who she is after this.

Three cheers for Cordelia Williams and one resounding cheer for the Nairobi Orchestra’s concert at the Kenya National Theatre this past weekend. I have to admit that it was truly impossible not to come out with my spirits high after such an incredible performance.

Player-wise, the orchestra boasted of about 60 grand members that seemed to have brought a grand audience along: on the one hand, the show was totally sold out and on the other, the performers were applauded on their first appearance. Chances of this concert building to an ovating climax was inevitable. It did. Under the stewardship of conductors James Laight (a pianist-cum-accompanist-cum-violinist) and Levi Wataka (a conductor-cum-director of music-cum-teacher of sports), it was nice to see the players prove why they are indeed the best. Both Laight and Levi are excellent – where Laight is relaxed and seemingly easy-going, Levi is lively and beguiling.

Debussy’s Petite Suite for Orchestra is always a guilty-pleasure thanks to its four lively movements: the soothing first (In A Boat) which is always reminiscent of flowing down a river, the playful second (Procession) which brings to mind a marching band, the magical third (Minuet) and the fourth (Ballet) an energetic dance that threatened to take me to the floor. Were it not for a refrain barring movement during the performance, the minuet and ballet had already inspired me to.

Whatever you may conceive of Tchaikovsky, you cannot deny that this symphony is a deeply personal piece of work. Starting out with a funereal first movement, Symphony No. 5 in E-minor Op 64 was performed through a passionate and rather melodic second movement, over to a delightfully light vals in its third movement and lastly to a whirlwind finale typical of Russian folk music. If I can be arsed to compose anything remotely similar to a symphony, you can expect to hear something greatly influenced by Tchaikovsky.

Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini was the most appealing – not just because he is another of my most favourite pianists, but because Cordelia quite beautifully unraveled his explosion of notey compositions. Taken from Niccolo Paganini’s Caprice No. 24, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini consists of 24 variations that fall into groups giving rise to its concerto momentum. In addition to the tremolos and the expanded cadences, I had literal fun watching the soloist’s fingers dance across the keys to Rachmaninoff’s big stretches.

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If there was any weaknesses with the concert is that the guys charged with ticketing were a bunch of chaos. Otherwise, this was an entertaining concert and everybody should catch the next.

I count myself happy to have snugged this LP (33⅓ RPM) by King Sunny Ade and His African Beats last month. I am not going to make a show of mock modesty and claim that I knew about him prior to this, or that I knew anything expansive about Nigeria’s jùjú music, which is said to account for a massive portion of the country’s record trade.

King Sunny Ade, also referred to as the Minister of Enjoyment, was born in 1946 in Oshogbo, Nigeria. His musical influences included I.K Dairo and the notable Tunde Nightingale who is said to have pioneered Jùjú music. In 1966 he formed his own band, the Green Spots which was later renamed The African Beats in 1974.

Yet, I should like to mention that I have since read, with much pleasure, about the origin, continuity and thematic development of jùjú music – a complex music, as it is with any progressive music really, whose variations have been determined by spontaneous contingent factors most of which are either cultural or social, or both.

In spite of the fact he borrowed some of his stylistic elements from Nightingale’s style of jùjú, it has been reported that King Sunny together with his band, The African Beats, pioneered much of jùjú music’s metamorphosis into contemporary Afro-pop. For example, while the genre’s aesthetics changed with the introduction of electric guitars in the 1950s, his was the first band to use Hawaiian guitars, synthesizers and reggae-dub effects. In his words….

Juju music is essentially party music…the fans out there want to dance and the rhythm is basically simple and, once you hook it up, it flows endlessly. It really is a very rich music

Juju Music, recorded in Lome and produced in London in 1982, was Ade’s first international release and it featured established favourites from his growing repository. The seven numbers herein are surpassing of the gentle polyrhythms which variegate the call-and-response of the drums (talking drums, congas and bongos), the shekere, the guitars and the vocals.

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I have decided to follow the scent while it is still hot, and so far, Chairman King Sunny Ade is as worthy as he is great! There is something in the pulse of his music which, perhaps an excitant, not many can rival. To say that I am excited would not be entirely true. Electrified is what more accurately describes the state my mind is in at the moment.