I was at a loose end in Brussels on Sunday night when, flicking through a listings magazine, I discovered that one Didier Amadi was playing Bozar (or the Palais Des Beaux-Arts to give the place its full name) that evening. I had never heard of him but wandered over out of curiousity and, discovering that tickets could be had for as little as €8, decided to give it a go.
Bozar is a combination of an art gallery and a medium-sized concert hall. Ideal for the classical concerts that it is normally used for, but less obviously suited to a radical Senegalese hip hop artist, which is what the programme informed me Didier was. I'm not a great fan of hip hop so I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy the evening. Add to that the fact that the venue was no more than about one third full, and that the evening began with a lengthy speech from a Eurocrat who informed us that the event was sponsored by the Belgian Presidency of the European Union and that Didier would be performing his concept album about African liberation leaders who went on to be presidents of their countries, and I awaited his arrival with some trepidation.
Which made the next two hours somewhat of a revelation. Didier was backed by an excellent band, with a stand out performance from Moustapha Gaye on guitar, and was joined by a steady stream of guest singers, rappers and random audience members (including one splendidly dressed older gent who I believe was the Senegalese ambassador to the EU). While there was a strong hip hop element to the music, it also drew heavily on various African styles linked to the leader the specific song was about - for example, some rumba for the song about Patrice Lumumba of the Congo. All in all it was an excellent show.
Compared to the stage show, the album "Presidents D'Afrique" is relatively mild-mannered, but it is still very enjoyable with a host of guest stars from all over Africa. These three selections are tributes to Mandela, Lumumba and Modibo Keita of Mali respectively.
"Amandla" - Awadi (featuring Skwatta Kamp)
"Ensemble" - Awadi (featuring Babani Kone)
"On A Plus Le Choix" - Awadi (featuring Fredy Massamba)
Some of you hardcore rap and hip hop fans might consider to be a bit too watered down for your tastes. In which case, try this "old school" (as I believe they say) classic instead.