Minneapolis, September 12, 2011—This mini-festival of new Congolese music and dance brings two of the Central African country’s most inspiring contemporary ensembles to the Twin Cities: Faustin Linyekula/Studios Kabako with his new dance work more more more … future (Friday–Saturday, September 23–24); and Staff Benda Bilili, the 12-member Kinshasa-based soukous/rumba group (Tuesday, September 27). Conflict and unimaginable national hardship can give rise to unexpectedly inspired art, and after decades of civil war, corruption, and economic collapse, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is producing tense and cathartic work with themes of creativity, courage, and promise rising amidst the ashes that are universal and deeply human. Despair Be Damned includes a free screening of the new documentary Benda Bilili!, described by the Hollywood Reporter as “a rousing depiction of unimaginable poverty and transcendent resolve” (Thursday, September 22, 7:30 pm) and a performative lecture-demonstration with Faustin Linyekula and guitarist Flamme Kapaya (Thursday, September 22, 6 pm).
A complete schedule of Despair Be Damned events follows
Faustin Linyekula/Studios Kabako
more more more … future
Friday–Saturday, September 23–24, 8 pm
$25 ($21 Walker members)
William and Nadine McGuire Theater
“To be positive is the most subversive. Celebrating is a way of resisting. We are still alive in all of this.” —Faustin Linyekula
Part galvanizing dance, part cathartic concert, this rebelliously fierce celebration balances fury with hope, despair with joy. In a complex dance-music-theater production, Congolese choreographer Linyekula (Festival of Lies, 2007) and his company of remarkable male dancers return in a collaboration with Kinshasa-based electric guitar star Flamme Kapaya on his U.S. debut tour. In this raucous, provocative performance, Linyekula and his company of remarkable male dancers twist and rage to the seething poems of political prisoner Antoine Vumilia Muhindo and the infectious rhythms of pop/vanguard guitarist Flamme Kapaya’s five-member onstage band.
After eight years abroad, Linyekula returned to his native Congo in 2001 with a renewed desire to create art there. In the capital city of Kinshasa, he established the Studios Kabako, a company and art center dedicated to contemporary dance and visual theater. Studios Kabako aims to both address artistic and aesthetic issues and foster professional skills through research, creation, and circulation. It provides training opportunities for artists, management and technical staff with a focus on nurturing artists to explore new ideas and collaborations both at home and abroad. Memory, forgetting, and the suppression of memory are central to his works, addressing the legacy of decades of war, terror, fear, and the collapse of the Congolese economy for himself, his family, and his friends.
With Studios Kabako, Linyekula has presented several works: Spectacularly Empty (2001), Triptyque sans titre (2002), Spectacularly Empty II (2003), Radio Okapi (2004), Le Festival des Mensonges / Festival of Lies (2005), The Dialogue Series: i. Franco (2006) and The Dialogue Series: iii. Dinozord (2006) and conducted various international projects and collaborations with artists from France, Morocco, Ethiopia, Sweden, and South Africa. Partnerships have also been established with institutions including: Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs (Strasbourg, France); Collectif 12 (Mantes-La-Jolie, France); Centre National de la Danse (Paris, France); KAAY FECC dance festival (Dakar, Senegal); and GAARA Dance Company (Nairobi, Kenya).
Linyekula has been commissioned to create work for the Avignon Festival, Theatre de Suresnes in Paris, the Tanzwochen Festival in Austria and by Peter Sellars of the New Crowned Hope Festival in Vienna.
Festival of Lies and The Dialogue Series: iii. Dinozord were both performed at the 2007 Avignon Festival. In 2007-08, he worked on the staging of La Fratrie errante, a text by Marie-Louise Bibish Mumbu. In 2009, he introduced his own version of Jean Racine’s Bérénice commissioned by the Comédie-Française and the Gennevilliers Theater / Paris (March-June). Linyekula is also currently performing Sans-titre, a duet by and with Raimund Hoghe.
His most recent performance, Pour en finir avec Bérénice, was presented at the Festival d’Avignon 2010. In addition Linyekula continues to teach in Africa, Europe, and the United States. Since 2006, Linyekula has moved his activities to Kisangani and is now working on the development of a series of neighborhood cultural centers around performing arts and image in the city.
Artist Talk: Faustin Linyekula
Thursday, September 22, 6 pm Free
Linyekula presents a poetic and performative lecture-demonstration addressing life in the Democratic Republic of the Congo today and featuring his collaborator, guitarist Flamme Kapaya. A Q&A follows. This is a great opportunity to be informed and get close to the artist before seeing more more more … future.
North American tour produced by MAPP International Productions. Support provided by the Institut Français/Programme Afrique et Caraïbes en Créations, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the National Dance Project of the New England Foundation for the Arts.
Film Screening: Benda Bilili!
Thursday, September 22, 7:30 pm, Free
Directed by Renaud Barret and Florent de Tullaya
Benda Bilili! premiered to standing ovations at Cannes last year. The film follows the band of self-taught Congolese musicians, four of them paraplegics, from the streets of Kinshasa to the stages of various international music festivals. French filmmakers Barret and de la Tullaya first encountered Staff Benda Bilili in 2004 and developed a remarkable relationship with its members over five years, filming them as their music developed—and their success grew. 2010, 35mm, 85 minutes.
Staff Benda Bilili
U.S. Debut Tour
Tuesday, September 27, 8 pm
The Cedar, 416 Cedar Avenue, Minneapolis
“Like all the finest African bands, Staff Benda Bilili’s swirling complexity removes the option to do anything but dance … Havana cantina, Kinshasa slum, psychedelic club, or London arts centre—this crack outfit would tear the roof off anywhere.”— Independent
Join us for an unusual, moving, and completely memorable night of music. This 12-member group of street musicians from Kinshasa has become an international sensation for their mesmerizing sounds and invented instruments. While the band cooks up beaty Congolese soukous and rumba, Staff Benda’s voices conjure the crooners of Havana, the toasters of Kingston, and the Godfather of Soul himself. The group, several of whose members have been polio-afflicted since youth, features singer/guitarists perched on customized tricycle/wheelchair hybrids fronting the group, a killer acoustic rhythm section, and weirdly infectious, invented instrument solos. Copresented with The Cedar.
Staff Benda Bilili has gained worldwide recognition including the 2009 WOMEX artist of the year award and voted as “Best Group” in the Songlines Music Awards 2010. Since 2009 Staff Benda have been touring extensively in Europe, playing many summer festivals including Glastonbury, WOMAD, and Roskilde.
Staff Benda Bilili consider themselves as the real journalists of Kinshasa, as their songs document and comment on events of everyday life. One of their key messages is “the only real handicaps are not in the body but in the mind.” Benda Bilili means “look beyond appearances” or literally “put forward what is hidden.”
Staff Benda Bilili Background
Kinshasa hosts more than 40,000 abandoned street kids, or sheges. The name supposedly hints at the Che-Guevaresque child soldiers who seized the capital in 1997, but the story might have been forged later as a reminder of Laurent Désiré Kabila’s connection with Che Guevara in the Sixties. Fleeing poverty in the suburbs and family violence, sheges can be seen everywhere in centre ville, waxing shoes, guarding vehicles in parking lots, selling pills, cola nuts and roasted crickets, slaloming on the boulevard between brand new SUVs, U.N. armored vehicles, battered taxis, and customized tricycles driven by intrepid paraplegic pilots.
When handicapés (disabled people) were exempted from customs tax in the1970’s, many turned their vehicles into pickups and used them to make a living transporting goods across the river between Kinshasa and its sister capital Brazzaville. Handicapés form the second most important group among the street outcasts of centre ville. Regrouped since colonial times around a hostel near the general hospital, they have a reputation for being loud, fearless, well-educated, and well-organized in a powerful syndicate called Plateforme. Many sheges benefit from their protection and advice.
Ricky Likabu – leader, vocals
Coco Ngambali – vocals, guitar
Theo Nsituvuidi – vocals, guitar
Djunana Tanga-Suele – vocals
Zadis Mbulu Nzungu – vocals
Kabamba Kabose Kasungo – vocals
Paulin ‘Cavalier’ Kiara-Maigi – bass
Roger Landu – satonge, vocals
Cubain Kabeya – drums, vocals
Randy Buda – percussion
The upper balcony of the McGuire Theater is the place to meet the artist, talk about the show and enjoy a drink and snacks. Open prior to and after the performance of _
more more more … future
Support provided by The McKnight Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
These events are a project of the Africa Contemporary Arts Consortium, a coalition of 11 diverse arts institutions, advancing a dynamic exchange of arts and ideas between artists, arts organizations, cultural, and other institutions of Africa and the United States.
Performing Arts Supporters
The Walker Art Center’s performing arts programs are made possible by generous support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation through the Doris Duke Performing Arts Fund, the William and Nadine McGuire Commissioning Fund, The McKnight Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Performing Arts programs and commissions at the Walker are generously supported by members of the Producers’ Council: Russell Cowles; Sage and John Cowles; Robert and Katherine Goodale; Nor Hall and Roger Hale; King’s Fountain/Barbara Watson Pillsbury and Henry Pillsbury; Emily Maltz; Dr. William W. and Nadine M. McGuire; Leni and David Moore, Jr.; Josine Peters; Mike and Elizabeth Sweeney; and Frances and Frank Wilkinson.