Sahr Ngaujah, one of two actors portraying Kuti during the L.A. run, was joined by the show’s band late Wednesday afternoon at the Amoeba Music store in Hollywood during a quick in-store performance and CD signing session.
They played for a little under 30 minutes -- roughly the length of one song the way Kuti typically stretched out his compositions live in the years before his death in 1997.
At Tuesday night’s performance, as they did briefly at Amoeba the following day, the 10-piece band did an exceptional job capturing the seductive grooves and dynamic colors of Kuti’s blend of Afro-Caribbean jazz and American funk that are at the heart of the Nigerian high-life music.
But as one who had seen Kuti’s band in the '80s and a number of other Afro pop groups over the years -- King Sunny Ade, Tabu Ley Rochereau, Mahlathini & the Mahotella Queens, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and O.J. Ekemode & His Nigerian All-Stars, to name a few -- I confess to being a bit surprised, and marginally distracted, by the absence of black musicians in the terrific onstage band. (Actor Rasaan-Elijah “Talu” Green plays the djembe drum on stage but is part of the acting cast and wasn’t with the band when it played at Amoeba.)