Congo's Faustin Linyekula at The Kitchen, with live music by Flamme Kapaya.
The core of the show are songs performed live by guitarist Flamme Kapaya, with text by Antoine Vumilia Muhindo, a political prisoner and friend of Linyekula’s. Kapaya comes across as the bona fide rock star he is in Congo; he’s the centerstage “sun” around which the additional four musicians, plus three dancers, including Linyekula, orbit throughout what is basically a long, varied rock set. The lyrics (in French) dip in and out of political protest, bemoaning failure, seeking hope or salvation.
Not only is Faustin Linyekula’s more more more…future great fun, it packs a potent message. In fact, there’s so much condensed into this 90-minute production at The Kitchen (through Oct 15) as part of FIAF’s Crossing the Line festival, that you feel as though you’d made a trip to the choreographer’s native Democratic Republic of Congo, tellingly additionally qualified in his bio as “former Zaire, fomer Belgian Congo, former independent state of Congo…,” indicative of its struggle for independence and stability.
Literally and figuratively, the dances slip in and around the driving music, a variation of “ndombolo,” popular in Congo, with chunky bass, shimmering guitar, and rising and falling vocals and declarations. The three dancers begin bare-chested, and climb into colorful pinecone-shaped tunics (by Xuly Bët, Paris) that make them look like giant toys, or something from Alice in Wonderland. They clustered and spun against one another, resembling vertical brushes in a car wash. Linyekula plopped on his back, limbs aloft dead-bug style. Tunics removed, it’s now clear that the dancers’ spines and pelvis’ drive the subtle movement that emanates up the back and through waving hands, like emotion short-circuiting the brain and going straight to the torso in an electric jolt.
Eventually all of the performers congregate in upstage, forming a circle, chanting and singing, taking turns dancing in the center. It’s a hermetic, tightly knit community to admire, but not enter. The performers return to their posts and perform a somewhat rambling contemplative number invoking Zarathustra, showcasing Kapaya’s impressive guitar and vocal skills. For the final tableau, the cast sits facing the back wall, where images of Congo’s many politicos appear, followed by its putative future leaders—the very artists we’ve just seen.
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