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The House of Tudor 

Wednesday, Jul 9 1997
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Nigerian percussionist Babatunde Olatunji was the first person to turn the Grateful Dead's Mickey Hart onto drums. He has also done some things worthy of note in the course of his 40-year career. In 1959, he released Drums of Passion, an unprecedented album that exposed much of the Western world to African music for the first time and paved the way for future artists like King Sunny Ade and Fela Kuti. He became known as the father of African music in the United States, making appearances in the early '60s at Radio City Music Hall and the New York World's Fair and on The Tonight Show. He also established the Olatunji Center of African Culture in the heart of Harlem, which, to this day, preserves African heritage for urban youth. With his percussion ensemble, Planet Drum, Olatunji has brought together the finest drummers to be found in India, South America, and the Caribbean. His latest recordings, Drums of Passion: The Beat and Drums of Passion: The Invocation, have been released by Rykodisc and produced by Mickey Hart, a full 30 years after the musicians' first meeting. While Olatunji still sings in his native tongue, his music has not lost its universal appeal, proving his belief that rhythm is the soul of life. He appears Wednesday and Thursday, July 9 and 10, at Kimball's East at 9 p.m. Tickets are $20; call (510) 658-2555.

At its inception, the H.O.R.D.E. Festival was the crunchy granola-eaters' answer to Lollapalooza, a gathering for pooka beads instead of piercings. But as more young artists turn from blaring angst to deliberate songwriting and rock-optional instrumentation, H.O.R.D.E. has become a contender. This is its most promising year yet, with requisite songsmith Neil Young and his band Crazy Horse heading up the bill and a whole slew of young innovators picking up the slack. Get there early because Ben Folds Five does with piano what Morphine (also on the bill) does with saxophone -- replacing the rock guitar with a less tired idiom. (There is nothing quite as precious as "Kiss my ass" sung over the tinkling of ivories.) The Squirrel Nut Zippers, Primus, Big Head Todd & the Monsters, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and Leftover Salmon finish off the highly imaginative lineup at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View on Friday, July 11, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $30; call 967-4040.

Ozomatli were listed in Harper's Bazaar as one of L.A.'s seven favorite local bands. Others on the list -- Beck, the Wallflowers, No Doubt, and Mazzy Star, strange company for a bunch of kids who find their musical roots in Latin jazz and '70s funk. But after seeing them play down south earlier this year, I have to agree that this crew can generate stadium-size heat. The multicultural 11-piece comprises Latin American, Mexican, Creole, African-American, Japanese, and Irish players who combine DJ samples with Spanish ballads, Brazilian rhythms, dancehall toasts, and hip-hop backbeats. Bring dance shoes and a towel. The headlining act, Toledo, are a jarring spectator affair -- a seedy sort of beat cabaret with acid-jazz overtones that should give you time to dry off before walking back to the car. Toledo and Ozomatli perform at the Great American Music Hall on Friday, July 11, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10; call 885-0750.

Idiot Flesh are celebrating the release of their first CD in over three years. It seems to me that listening to this group without looking at them is like trying to appreciate a circus performance on audiocassette, but the band sound terribly excited. They've put together an extra-extra-extravagant show to celebrate. Now, anyone who has seen Idiot Flesh knows that a "normal" performance includes fire breathers, butoh dancers, life-size inflatable puppets, great sprays of gelatinous foam, and other such delights, so I can only imagine what kind of spectacle is in store. Antique pulleys were mentioned to me. Pick up a copy of Fancy and prepare to be slimed at the Transmission Theater on Saturday, July 12, at 9 p.m. Ether open. Tickets are $10; call 861-5121.

In a town as distressingly desperate for good radio as this one, it is of vital importance that pirate broadcasters be supported by anyone remotely interested in hearing voices that are not fueled by corporate media. Radio X airs every day at 6 p.m. on 102.5 FM. It is an undocumented, unlicensed broadcast, dedicated to creating an open forum where people may freely exchange ideas regardless of the economy. This includes news that might otherwise go unmentioned, controversial information about politics and education, invitations to radical cultural events, and music from artists without fiscal backing. A benefit for the program includes a live-air performance by DJ IJ and Radio X "pros," as well as appearances by Los Angelitos and Orixa. Exercise your Fifth Amendment rights at Cafe Du Nord on Monday, July 14, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $5; call 861-5016.

-- Silke Tudor

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Silke Tudor

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