Sonny Okosun offered a different brand of African pop during the first of two nights at the Music Machine Saturday, but different is not necessarily better. The Nigerian singer's music steered clear of the heavy talking-drums and guitar style of juju music in favor of a leaner, lilting sound that incorporated reggae material and addressed political themes like apartheid. But the three-man horn section that injected a tropical flavor was underused, and the lack of dynamics and variety wore heavily as the set progressed.
The rhythm section proved to be the 14-piece Ozzidi Band's Achilles heel: The dance grooves started off strongly enough, but lost focus and force during lengthy vamps. The short, stocky Okosun was more the energetic Everyman (a la reggae's Toots Hibbert) than a compelling singer or electrifying performer, and his three female backing singer/dancers looked and moved better than they sang.