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Finding a voice where Fela left off

Andrew Harley

A well-rested body may be all that’s necessary for tonight’s jam at 8150. The 14 pieces that make up Albino! put out quite a full and powerful music that calls for an extended period of full-body dancing.The band is about a year old, and carries on the Afrobeat tradition created by Fela Kuti.”People ask me what this band sounds like, and I have to tell them that we’re more like James Brown than any African band that they would probably imagine,” said Bruce Buchanan. “It’s a very aggressive style of playing, very percussive. The guitar, in some cases, is almost like a drum, so it’s very funky. It’s almost like a Parliament show – a party on stage.”Members of Albino! include players who were formerly members in Fela Kuti’s Africa 70, Sonny Okosun, Hamsa Lila and Spearhead.”We are not Fela’s cover band, but we play the same kind of music that he founded,” said Geoffrey Omadhebo. “We are very selective when it comes to musicians who are in the band.”Omadhebo is the lead vocalist, musical director and arranger. The band also features percussionist Friday Jumbo, guitarist Buchanan, keyboardist Bob Crawford, Charlie Wilson on trombone, Michael Bello on baritone sax, John Gibson on trumpet, Nathan Endsley on tenor sax and flute, percussionist/dancers Kim Agnew and Robyn Smith, bassist Kevin Blair, “tenor” guitarist Cal Reichenbach and drummer Michael Pinkham.”On stage, what we have is multicultural. It goes back to the name Albino! because albino is something that is very hard to describe,” said Omadhebo. “Everybody on stage is very open-hearted, and they do the best they can to make it get to the level we want.”Jumbo, who played congas in Kuti’s band, “Africa 70,” is a Nigerian native.”We’re very blessed to have a member of Fela Kuti’s band. I’ve been dreaming about this for the longest time, and about a year ago, things started to happen,” said Buchanan. “We did our first show in November, and things are going very well. We’ve covered a lot of ground.”Crawford is regarded for his work with Michael Franti and Spearhead. He put in a great deal of himself and his ivories to the album “Stay Human.””We want to take it to the highest level we can take it, and when we leave it other people will pick it up from where we leave it,” said Omadhebo. “We’re making sure that this band will tour Europe and other parts of the world.”Buchanan, who co-founded the band, has been following the Afrobeat path for approximately 15 years.”I’ve been a Fela Kuti fan for years. And, the way I got introduced to African music was by playing in Geoffrey’s band from about ’89 to ’92,” said Buchanan. “That was my boot camp for African guitar playing, and ever since then I’ve been an addict.”Albino! uses mostly Pidgin English and Yoruba as lyrics.”Afrobeat is a voice that you reach the people’s minds politically with, and you practice what you teach. A lot of people ask if we’re political. I tell them, ‘Yeah.’ Because we are the voice of the people; we are like the media,” said Omadhebo.The band has not recorded an album, but will be in the studio starting in September.”One of my main impressions so far is how well-received we’ve been,” said Buchanan. “People really love this music. I have the feeling a lot of them haven’t heard Afrobeat like this before. So, it’s a real pleasure to kind of blow their minds.”Albino! starts the spectacle at 10 p.m. at 8150 tonight in Vail.Andrew Harley, a writer based in Vail, Colorado, can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or at aharley@vaildaily.com.


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