Shango, the 20-plus-member orchestra dedicated to playing Afrobeat music, was founded by percussionist, keyboardist, dancer, composer and arranger Jonny Peiffer two years ago. Last Friday night, most of the band filled the stage at One Longfellow Square and turned the intimate venue into an indoor street party. The tables and chairs were pushed back to make room for the band that makes people dance.
In addition to Peiffer, who played congas and conducted in a red hoody, Shango had Stu Dias (lead vocals), Mike Effenberger (keys), Brett Gallo (drumset), Eben Hearn (percussion), Nick Phaneuf (bass), Jon McCormack and Jonathan Paul (guitars), Zach Lange and Colin Mainella (trumpets), Brian Paulding (trombone), Matt Langley (tenor sax), and Eric Klaxton (alto sax). Liz Fowler, Emily Bowes and Marie Richey provided backup vocals and danced in the crowd to get the gang going.
The audience started to lose their junior high wallflowery postures, magnetized by the band’s beats and epic jams that had Dias chilling on the sidelines while the musicians tumbled through the chords.
Gretchen Stuart, a volunteer ticket-taker at OLS, was thrilled to be doing pro bono time for the music venue. She saw Shango the last time they were here and she was waiting for the band to lose its stage presence and waft onto the dance floor.
“It was incredible. Everybody was dancing. You can’t help it,” she said. “Before long, they will be playing and dancing in the crowd.”
Peiffer’s posse was formed in the summer of 2013 for a performance at an annual outdoor music festival called The Seacoast Congress of Sound, on the Great Works Farm in North Berwick.
“We’ve now played that festival three years in a row,” Peiffer said. “I created the group specifically to perform the music of Fela Kuti and Tony Allen — Afrobeat — and have arranged over a dozen of their classic hits for the ensemble — Zombie, I.T.T., Afrodisco Beat, Water and more. We play regular dance parties at The Dance Hall in Kittery, as well as at other venues in the Seacoast area. We began playing OLS earlier this year. Folks show up expecting to dance for hours and be lifted up by the experience.”
Peiffer’s playmates consist of musicians from raucous local bands like Tan Vampires, The Soggy Po Boys, Mother Superior and the Sliding Royales.
“We’ve recently begun writing our own music in this style,” he said. “At our next show (Oct. 23 at The Dance Hall Kittery), we will begin to phase out the music of our heroes in our set and start replacing that with original material.”
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