Monday, October 22, 2007

Beyonce Launches World Tour in Ethiopia

'Get Me Bodied'

(October 21)Beyonce Knowles began her world tour in front of an audience of 5,000 fans in Ethiopia, a country usually unimpressed by Western music.

The 26-year-old Texan R&B singer gave a spirited two-hour performance in the Ethiopian capital Saturday evening, as part of the country's yearlong celebration of its 2,000th year according to the Coptic calendar.

Addis Ababa hosted L.A. -based hip-hop group the Black Eyed Peas in September, when the celebrations began, but reception was tepid.

Beyonce's opening act, multi-platinum-selling rapper Ludacris, also received lukewarm reaction.

But something about Beyonce seems to have struck a chord in Ethiopia, where even young Ethiopians are steadfast fans of tunes sung in the national language, Amharic. The audience was ecstatic when she came onstage for her concert, which included many ballads from her recent release, "B-day."

"Rap music doesn't suit Ethiopia," said Michael Melake, a 36-year-old local music promoter. "Ethiopians need a melody. Rap music is all about the message and we don't identify with that. It's all about the black American experience, and we don't relate to that."

Enoch Nicano, a 30-year-old nightclub owner, provided a slightly simpler explanation for Beyonce's fan base in Ethiopia.

"She's hot," he said, then paused to reconsider. "She's more than hot."

In a country where many women wear simple white dresses with colored stripes at the hemline and sleeves, all made from local cotton, Beyonce's outfits were covered in sequins or shiny, space-age material - from a modern interpretation of a hula girl with shiny black tendrils replacing the grass skirt to a high-necked Victorian-style top.

Despite - or perhaps because of - her outfits, many in the crowd appeared to genuinely enjoy Beyonce's performance.

Concert organizers were a little more delicate about why Ethiopians are so fond of the singer.

"Because she loves Ethiopia," said Mulugeta Aserate, a member of Ethiopia's millennium secretariat.

The singer conveyed that herself, showing genuine emotion before closing the show to deafening applause.

"I want to thank you," she told the screaming crowd. "You have been one of the best audiences of my lifetime."

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