The Mighty Popo Wows Regina

I think the first time I have ever seen a skirt get a round of applause was last night in Regina’s Exchange. As the Mighty Popo walked on stage with his group the crowd noticed his vocalist was wearing a wrap around, African style skirt with Obama’s face on the back. A spontaneous round of applause erupted. To be honest, I thought that was a bit weird. Exchange audiences are usually a bit more cynical than that.

As a displaced Rwandan growing up in Burundi, Popo whose real name is Jacques Murigande, grew up listening to the African rhythms in his neighbourhood as well as the R&B in his parents' record collection. He emigrated to Canada, to Ottawa really in 1987 as a refugee and started to concentrate on is music.

He put everything together into a kind of world blues, a collective that includes soukous, West African juju and highlife, South African township jive, Caribbean reggae, zouk, calypso and soca, and American blues and R&B.

He and his band were in town as a part of the Regina Folk Festival’s Concert Series and they put on a great show last night. The theme running through the evening was, “life is a celebration” which to an old cynic like me would usually be a bit over the top. It was not. I am not sure when I have seen a band have more fun and the crown lapped it up.

People were just caught up in the musical energy, so much so that former NDP Cabinet Minister and drummer, Joanne Crawford at some point just walked on stage and moved in behind the African drum set and started to play. The band wasn’t sure what to make of it for a bit but soon realized that she is pretty good. They even gave her a solo. The crowd and the band loved it.

The evening has a funny kind of ending too. As the crowd was just starting to work up for an encore request the percussionist moved to one of the mics and said the band should do an encore, just because the crowd deserved one.

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