"We or me? Which is more important?" So goes the question posed often and in many ways by Lágbájá, the Nigerian saxophonist/vocalist/bandleader. In the Yoruba language, his name means "somebody, anybody, nobody in particular," another extension of his community-first philosophy. His United States debut album is called We Before Me. Get the picture?

Musically Lágbájá is a post-Fela phenomenon mixing elements of Afrobeat, juju, highlife and traditional bata drumming with a few Western pop twists.

It may be up for discussion who truly carries the mantle of the late, legendary Fela Kuti. Femi Kuti, who came up in his father's band, has been making his own waves the past few years. Lágbájá ties in by sampling Fela's voice in order to hold a conversation with him on "Vernacular."

It's debatable, but Lágbájá is certainly the hottest thing in Nigeria these days, having won artist of the year, producer of the year, album of the year and Afrobeat recording of the year in February from the west African nation's equivalent of the Grammys.

Since he always performs with a mask on, Lágbájá can probably still walk in to a local bar for a drink without getting mobbed by adoring fans. That just wouldn't fit with his philosophy.

Lágbájá performs Saturday, July 14, at 4 p.m. on the Big Top Stage at Chene Park in downtown Detroit (at Atwater and Chene, on the Detroit River). The official concert schedule can be found at www.concertofcolors.org.

Be sure to check out the rest of MT's special features in celebration of the Concert of Colors:

  • "Mixing the waters" — An introduction to the Concert of Colors (and some of the artists performing there), where exotic world sounds mingle and flow across boundaries and borders.
  • Amina — Defying categorization, this Tunisian Parisienne’s sensual and tender voice seems at ease floating between the worlds of drum and bass, jungle, Asian and traditional West African beats.
  • Burnt Sugar — Having updated Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew with a multilayered mix of electric, dreamy funk, this ever-evolving jazz-session collective just keeps getting deeper.
  • Cheb Mami — An Algerian native whose return to the desert breaks musical borders. Sting calls him “one of the greatest voices in world music today.”
  • Cibo Matto — Japanese-born master sound chefs who serve up an irresistible stew of funk, hip hop, hardcore, melody and fractured pop.
  • Lo´ Jo — A French group that brings Europe and Africa together with the sweet strains of a seductive dance ... a musical trance.
  • Los Lobos — Quintessentially American, this long-lived East Los Angeles-based combo mixes rock, ranchera and more with an authenticity that can never be questioned.
  • Poncho Sanchez — This Latin-jazz bandleader extraordinaire keeps the Cal Tjader flame alive with his Afro-Cuban pulsations.

Larry Gabriel is a writer, musician and former Metro Times editor. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com

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