Is juju the Yoruban word for salsa picante ?
If you said yes, you wouldn't get any argument from the crowd that was swept up by the slinky Nigerian juju music of King Sunny Ade and his colorful 17-member African Beats at the Greek Theatre on Friday. The infectious interplay of four electric guitars and seven percussionists--including two on the amazing and aptly named talking drum--would not sound unfamiliar to fans of such Latin music stars as Tito Puente or Santana.
Add on the performances of Ade and four singers/dancers and such Ade trademarks as pedal steel guitar and it's easy to see why this chilly evening became a joyous dance-along and--for a few Nigerians in the crowd--sing-along.
Still, for anyone who saw Ade's 1983 local debut at the Hollywood Palladium, there was a sense of disappointment. Where that night seemed like a full-blown cultural event, with a generous performance spiced by a crowd that was more a participant than a mere audience, this seemed more like just a concert. Perhaps this music isn't meant for a sit-down venue.
Los Angeles' Untouchables openned the show with a party-time mix of reggae, ska, R&B, rock and rap, but never added anything distinctive to any of the styles.