Mohammed Alidu at Arlene’s Grocery 3/31/13

Mohammed Alidu

Arlene’s Grocery

March 31, 2013

Mohammed Alidu is probably best known for his involvement in the Playing for Change project as a drummer – and although he been a member of the Playing for Change touring band, Alidu is quickly making a name for himself internationally as a vocalist, songwriter and performer. (On a certain level, he’s a musician’s musician, as he’s played with Peter Gabriel, Baaba Maal, Tinariwen, Michael Franti, Ziggy Marley, Keb Mo, and others.) 

Born and raised in the town of Tamale, in Northern Ghana, and now based in Los Angeles, Alidu’s music is heavily influenced by an over 1,000 year musical traditions of the Bizung people while using Western arrangements, and mixed with the modern studio sounds heard in the clubs and lounges of the African Diaspora of New York, London, and Paris. it’s a sound that’s both ultra modern and yet incredibly timeless. 

Alidu has embarked on a tour, on which he was playing mostly new material – material which will be appear on his forthcoming third album, an album that’s slated to be released later on in the year. His tour included two NYC area stops, and I caught him and his backing band at an old haunt – Arlene’s Grocery

With a jubilant, 10 million megawatt smile, Alidu much like Nneka and even Bob Marley speak with a profound wisdom that belies their age – and with a warm, friendly sense of humor. He’s a larger than life presence that radiates charisma – watching him live, you feel compelled to give every ounce of attention to him. 

As I mentioned earlier, Alidu and his backing band mixes the traditional sounds of the Bizung people with modern production. You’ll hear elements of reggae (which isn’t surprising as reggae is beloved across the African Diaspora), funk, Afrobeat and other genres. it sounds warmly familiar, and utterly sincere – there’s a beating heart and passionate soul to his music, and it can’t (and won’t) be denied. But it’s also incredibly funky. if you’re not shaking your ass then there’s something wrong with you and your soul. "Land of Fire,“ one of my favorite songs of his, describes Alidu’s native land in such vivid, beautiful and loving terms that i can almost envision it as he would. 

i was impressed by him and his backing band – they played a set that felt completely improvised and free flowing, and yet felt entirely tight and prepared. That’s a rare thing. Catch this guy while you can, I suspect that you’ll be catching a legend. 

For these photos and the rest of the photos from this great set, check out the Flickr set here: