Bluff City Vibes: Obruni Dance Band Brings West African Beats to Memphis

Get a taste of Afro-pop from local Obruni Dance Band

Bringing the Highlife Party Vibe to Memphis

If you know where to dig, you’ll find Memphis’ music scene is comprised of innovative artists, who know how to remix the unfamiliar into… well, the familiar. Making it easier to expose isolated ears to sounds exclusively known–if you’re not actively looking for it–to other parts of the world.

A local group of talented musicians, transporting Memphians to the ivory coast with Afro-pop influenced music, is Obruni Dance Band. Obruni, in the Akan language of Twi, means: foreigner! The band name is a comedic nod to the local West African Community from, Adam Holton, a “white guy” playing West African music.

In creating Obruni Dance Band, Adam’s goal is to honor a genre and culture he admires, and to increase curiosity about musical gems from abroad.

The Origins of Obruni Dance Band

Adam’s passion for West African Music began in college at the University of Colorado Boulder. After witnessing his Ghanaian ethnomusicology professor’s ensemble play the house down with dancers and a group of over 20 performers, Adam decided he needed to be a part of the action. He spent the rest of his undergrad consumed by the infectious dance music, traveling abroad, and mastering the genre. He even created a band called, By All Means, with drum prodigy, Paa Kow, and moved back home to share it with Memphis.

Adam spent 8 years away from playing Afro-pop after By All Means broke up in 2008. Missing it terribly, he started gathering local musicians experienced in jazz and world music, then, started hosting community dance events with the Mama Africa dancers and Tee Kes under the name, Obruni Dance Band.

Obruni Dance Band has 8 members, which pales in comparison to the usual 20 plus of a traditional Highlife band. But, don’t let the size fool you! They still bring the same excitement of a group twice their size! The Bluff City Weekend team got a glimpse of that energy when all 8 members performed their original song, Lonely, at Memphis Slim Collaborative.

Where can I shake it to Obruni?

Obruni Dance Band regularly hosts community dance events throughout the city. The best way to figure out where they are is to check out their Facebook page!

Don’t be afraid to show up and show out on the dance floor to a healthy mix of covers and original songs!

Who’s Next on Bluff City Vibes?

Our next installment features a local musician who is quickly becoming recognizable in the pop/soul music scene. Take a look at Nick Black’s new single, One Night Love.