JEAN BAPTISTE FOJEBA with ADAM SOLOMoN AND TIKISA , TAMZIR SECK and SHOW DO MAN as part of the BANA Y'AFRICA WINTER FESTIVAL at the Tranzac, February 24. Tickets: $10. Attendance: 150. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Chris Rock's got a funny bit about how Black History Month isn't just the shortest month, but the coldest, too. Maybe the joke's a bit less funny, though, to any black promoter or organizer trying to throw something celebratory during the month of Afro-bruary, only to have attendance levels lowered by the nose-nippings of that prejudiced old coot Jack Frost.
He's the one I blame for what seemed like a sparse crowd at the church-rec-roomish Tranzac for the Winter Festival Bana Y'Africa (Africa New Music), the Toronto organization established to shed light on locally spun motherland sounds.
Showing up at the announced start time of 9 pm, I was treated to an empty hall and 45 minutes of sound-checking. So I walked home and returned an hour later to Jean Baptiste Fojeba 's waterslide-smooth Cameroon rhythms. The guitarist's three-piece band flooded the hall with stomach-tickling, pillar-vibrating bass lines and kick/snare thump. Fojeba plinked away adeptly, his repetitive riffs reverberating with the soothing French words of his assured tenor.
With its zouk bounce, Fojeba's set was more an exercise in consistency of quality than variety a polite way of saying it was good but he never changed it up much. Still, he gets respect for keeping a bunch of people dancing continuously during his set.
"I would like to invite everybody to dance with me," he announced in a rare stab at English. "I'm going to show you how to clap your hands: one, two, three one, two, three." Counterpoint to the percussion going at the time, it was a more complex beat sequence than it sounds, but the rhythm-conscious audience got it in seconds.
One spirited lady even ran out to dance directly before the charismatic Fojeba, beckoning him with a finger.
"C'est une très bien dance, madame!" he rooted.
It took much longer for Adam Solomon and Tikisa to get it together. Their sound check was brutally long: "one, two, one, two..." into the mic forever. This can be forgiven because of the grand proportions of the seven-piece ensemble, featuring Senegalese performer Tamzir Seck with a drum on his shoulder.
But once the mix was correct, they went nuts, banging out the end of the night with a jittery, yelpful pan-African sound, stepping into compas and salsa territories along the way.