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Monday, July 14, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 59.0° F  A Few Clouds


His father's son

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TV on the Radio
Friday, March 16, Orpheum Theatre, 8 pm

I'd read a lot about TV on the Radio and had listened to their acclaimed 2006 album, Return From Cookie Mountain, many times. But I never really understood their music until I discovered two obituaries of Victor R. Adebimpe, M.D. ' the late father of frontman Tunde Adebimpe.

He's a curiously unexplored angle of the band's story. Like Kurt Cobain's troubled Aberdeen childhood, the career of Tunde's father is fundamental to TV on the Radio's music.

Victor R. Adebimpe was internationally known in the field of psychiatry. His research focused on the root causes of psychiatric conditions among immigrants and African Americans. He was also a talented pianist and caricaturist.

The elder Adebimpe died of a heart attack at age 60 in 2005. He lived half his life in Nigeria and half in the United States. He first came to the U.S. in 1973 to attend a medical residency in St. Louis. He later established a psychiatric practice in Pittsburgh, where he lived for nearly 25 years. His obituaries refer to him not only as a psychiatrist, but as an artist and a humanist.

The immediate similarities between Tunde and his father are easy to see. When Tunde settled into a Brooklyn loft in 2001 after graduating from New York University film school, his primary interests were painting and music. He and his roommate, David Andrew Sitek, would go on to form TV on the Radio later that year.

Adebimpe describes the band's sound as Earth, Wind and Fire meets the Wu Tang Clan. Even that doesn't capture the richness of their songs. Their music is ambient and beat-heavy, one part electronic loops and one part traditional instrumentation. The songs have a detached and meditative quality that defies description.

The band is sometimes pegged as political, and it's true that the opening line of Return to Cookie Mountain is 'I was a lover before this war.' But their genius is more universal, and the story of Tunde's father suggests why that might be.

Their mood music might be described as psycho-ambient. It's a journey through the maze of the human mind ' the kind a psychiatrist might take.

Tunde Adebimpe's full first name is Babatunde. It's an African name that conveys a boy's paternal likeness. Its translated meaning is 'Father has returned.'

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