/ 22 October 2007

Beyoncé makes a splash in Addis Ababa

R&B star Beyoncé Knowles joined year-long millennium celebrations in Ethiopia on Saturday evening with a spirited concert in the capital of the Horn of Africa nation.

About 5 000 adoring fans in Ethiopia — a country normally unimpressed by Western music — turned out to see Beyoncé.

In this country, even teens tend to be loyal to music in the national language, Amharic. But Beyoncé got a hysterical welcome when she came on stage.

”I want to thank you,” Beyoncé told the screaming crowd in return. ”You have been one of the best audiences of my lifetime.”

In a country where many women wear simple white, cotton dresses, Beyoncé wore costumes 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 paired with sequined hotpants.

Beyoncé’s concert was part of Ethiopia’s year-long celebration of its 2 000th birthday according to its ancient calendar.

In September, at the start of the year 2000, Addis Ababa hosted Los Angeles-based hip-hop group Black Eyed Peas in a new, multimillion-dollar but temporary concert hall. But the reception for the internationally popular group was tepid, if respectful.

Beyoncé’s opening act, multiplatinum-selling rapper Ludacris, also got a lukewarm reception on Saturday.

”Rap music doesn’t suit Ethiopia,” said local music promoter Michael Melake. ”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.”

But the crowd appeared to enjoy genuinely the 26-year-old Beyoncé, who sang many of the ballads on her latest album, B’Day.

Local nightclub owner Enoch Nicano had a more basic explanation for Beyoncé’s huge fan base in Ethiopia. ”She’s hot,” he said, then paused to reconsider. ”She’s more than hot.”

Concert organisers had another reason for why Ethiopians are so fond of the singer. ”Because she loves Ethiopia,” said Mulugeta Aserate, a member of Ethiopia’s millennium secretariat.

Beyoncé, who opened her world tour in Moscow last week, continues on to Romania, Turkey, India, Thailand, Indonesia and China. — Sapa-AP