Beyonce joins millennium party in Ethiopia

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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia -- Beyonce Knowles joined the millennium celebrations in Ethiopia with a spirited concert in the capital of the Horn of Africa nation.

Some 5,000 adoring fans in Ethiopia -- a country normally unimpressed by Western music -- turned out to see Beyonce. In this country, even teens tend to be loyal to music in the national language, Amharic. But Beyonce got a hysterical welcome when she came onstage.

"I want to thank you," the R&B star told the screaming crowd Saturday evening in return. "You have been one of the best audiences of my lifetime."

In a country where many women wear simple white, cotton dresses, Beyonce 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.

Beyonce's concert was part of Ethiopia's yearlong 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.

Beyonce's opening act, rapper Ludacris, also got a lukewarm reception 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," he said. "It's all about the black American experience, and we don't relate to that."

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

"She's hot," said local nightclub owner Enoch Nicano. "She's more than hot."

Concert organizers had another reason for why Ethiopians are so fond of the American singer.

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

Beyonce, who opened her world tour in Moscow last week, continues on to Romania, Turkey, India, Thailand, Indonesia and China.
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