Concert series celebrates the highlife

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By The Staff

The Los Alamos County Summer Concert Series will be back at Ashley Pond with the West African Highlife Band. The show starts at 7 p.m. Friday. This week’s music is from the western African club scene of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.
In those years when young African musicians/students would go to college in Europe, they’d return with a love of the fusion of the music of the cultures. The young people would go to the clubs of their homeland and celebrate the “highlife” the good times and the parties just like Los Alamos does on Friday nights. WAHB will play highlife dance classics, Afro-beat and traditional music of Nigeria and Ghana.
The show will be KTAOS FM 101.9 Night.
The band is led by bass player Baba Ken Okulolo. Baba (a loving term for father, grandfather, or family leader) grew up in Nigeria. As a child he went to Anglican missionary schools. On short wave radios, he’d listen to Afro-Cuban music, American R and B, highlife and jazz. His first international tour was, as a very young man, with the Nigerian Afro-rock, Afrobeat and socially conscientious superstar, Fela Kuti. (The Broadway show Fela is based on this man’s life and is still running strong after five years at the Eugene O’Neil Theater.)
After touring with Fela Kuti , Baba Ken joined with another Nigerian international superstar, King Sunny Ade and his African Beats. It was with King Sunny Ade that he first came to San Francisco, fell in love with the city, the area and the people. Two years later, in 1985 he moved to the Bay area. He now leads four African bands there that represent his various musical specialties: Afro-funk, traditional Nigerian folk, modern Afro-beat and highlife music. We will hear some of all the music but it’s a highlife show. Viva highlife! Viva the celebrations! Viva life! Viva musica!
Other members of the band are the Nigerian born lead guitarist, Soji Odukogbe, another veteran of Kuti’s band; Percussionist Nii Armah Hammond, of Ghana; Liberian trap drummer Lemi Barrow and singer/ percussionist Pope Flynne, also from Ghana. “Everyone that I’ve spoken to that has seen West African Highlife Band says they are an unbelievabley fun band and one of their favorite dance bands,” Organizer Russ Gordon said.

The West African Highlife Band have played all over the world including the Lincoln Center in New York and are regulars at the great San Francisco Bay area venues like the Filmore, the Warfield, Oakland Coliseum, Yoshi’s, the Great American Music Hall and the Greek Theater. Check out Baba Ken Okulolo on Facebook and YouTube. 

The Downtown Creative District (creativelosalamos.org) is having some special events downtown and is open later than normal business hours.
Fuller Lodge Art Center has a “Wallflowers Exhibit” until 9 p.m., where bathrooms are available. Mesa Public Library is offering games, crafts and art openings until 7 p.m. LA Historical Society, behind Fuller Lodge has Medieval living demos until 8 p.m. — bathrooms are available there as well. Bradbury Museum has Pinocchio Reanimated until
8 p.m. Pet Pangea is hosting the group dog walk from 6-7 p.m. Karen Wray Fine Art Gallery and Studio is staying open until 8 p.m. Dixie Girl Restaurant and Bar is open for dinner and as an after concert bar.
“Shop locally, it’s very important to LA County, our businesses, schools, roads, Los Alamos County Summer Concert Series, me and around 18,000 others,” Gordon said. Next Friday, the Paula Nelson Band from Austin, Texas will perform. The show will be in front of Smith’s Food and Drug for Smith’s Market Place Night. Paula sings blues, rock, Americana and country. She’s been influenced the most by Jesse Coulter, Rita Coolidge, Willie Nelson and his friends. Check her out at paulanelsonband.com and YouTube.