Although based in Chicago, OBDBI specialize in Afropop, encompassing a vast array of styles from areas roughly stretching from West Africa southward through the center of the continent. The Occidentals especially concentrate on highlife, infectious party music that originated along the Gold Coast and is characterized by simmering polyrhythms, percussive guitars, and snaky, undulating melodies usually played by horns. Their repertoire is drawn from artists from what could be considered the golden age of Afropop: Franco, Thomas Mapfumo, Kwaw Mensah. Oh, and New Order, because leader/guitarist Nathaniel Braddock, a Michigan native, noticed similarities between the Manchester band's mid-'80s nugget "Bizarre Love Triangle" and a highlife variety called Sikyi. Subtle bits of indie rock, hip hop, and jazz seep into OBDBI music, the last mostly via alto saxophonist Greg Ward, who's active on the Chicago jazz scene and sneaks bop elements into the mix when he's not providing scintillating counterpoint to Braddock's guitar. Kofi Cromwell adds trumpet and vocals in the Ghanaian dialects of Fante and Twi (and occasional English), Daniel Rambo Asamoah plays percussion, and Josh Ramos bass. Cromwell and Asamoah are veterans of the Ghanaian highlife band Western Diamonds, an authentic connection to the real article that the rest of the band definitely achieves in spirit. All ages.
Fri., March 20, 7 p.m., 2009