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Edinburgh Fringe 2021

Celebrating Okoe

African Groove Machine

Genre: Dance, Jazz, Live Music

Venue: Multistory


Low Down

This is almost an hour in the company of band and dancers who are here to celebrate the Ghanaian teacher and musician, Okoe Ardyfio. With songs written for him to perform but which he never managed to do live we have the jazz beats, African rhythms and enthusiasm with dance moves of then and now. Contemporary moves mixed with the traditional make this a feast of steps that give us the essence of the man we never got to meet. By the end people are up and dancing with instruction flowing from the stage.


In the shadow of the castle, this has the feel of a festival where you should come with your slippers but pack your dancing shoes. The songs are designed to bring you up off your seat and the accompanying dancers tempt you with gusto and verve. There was a lot to like about this.

At its simplest this is a tight band – drums, brass and guitars – which are well drilled in simply oozing their music. The dancers, bedecked in the traditional costume of Ghana are there to entertain but infuse their traditional moves with some more recognisable moves that allow us access to the simple joy of movement. Over a few songs we get who this joyous person may well have been.

It is not a requiem nor is it a wake but the musical equivalent of wear bright clothes to celebrate his passing. Ever single person onstage had that connection and wanted to, even had to share it. And boy, they did.

I am no jazz fan and traditional dance can be a bug bear – after several decades can it not move on?  But hey, it got me. Part of that is the way in which the onstage cohort just wanted to smile and share it was the key but also the technical ability of all shone through. Personalities amongst the dancers were massive and they worked the audience a treat.

As someone who likes their choreography tight, there were times when dancers were nodding to each other as if to say, you do this bit next and that felt uncoordinated whilst the audio mix in the song, If love Is On Your Mind, left the soloist sounding as if she was shouting, but overall this worked really well.

I think we could have done with a bit more biography for those of us unfamiliar with the music or the effect of this artiste and whilst the structure of a few songs to celebrate worked tolerably well, there just feels more to be got from his contribution – but it did encourage me to go looking for him so maybe that worked tolerably well too!

Having said that, the man in the suit, the dancer in the hat and her uncoordinated partner, who were all in the crowd in front of me cared not a jot. They got up, threw caution to the wind and danced like they couldn’t care less who watched. What could be better than that? Perhaps just the man himself, but I have a funny feeling, the cliché that he was there in spirit was never truer than that afternoon.