Inspired by Fela Kuti, the Nigerian composer, saxophonist, conductor, political activist and inventor of Afrobeat, the Belgian-Burkinan choreographer Serge Aimé Coulibaly has created a new performance in which politics is more than just a vague dramaturgical undertone.
There are six dancers on stage, and this soon becomes seven. From them burgeons an endless series of variations of figures and movements, which serve as metaphors for the compelling urgency to live… A political reflection that races through the body. A language of movement marked by the traditional repertoire, by grooving in nightclubs and by jazz, but which ultimately becomes an entirely new dance that dashes onward, unencumbered by its origins.
The stage setting alludes both to our current political and social world and to the Shrine, a hybrid and mythical place, both temple and nightclub, where Fela Kuti sang about hope and uprising after saying a prayer with his audience. Kalakuta Republic was the name of his residence, which was located on the outskirts of Lagos and which he regarded as an independent republic. The spirit of Fela, figurehead of the opposition in West Africa and a source of inspiration for many, is a central thread running through this performance.
Serge-Aimé Coulibaly himself plays the role of the narrator. Does he identify with Fela Kuti? Or is he simply himself, a committed artist caught up in a troubled world and simultaneously impressed by the effect of today’s young Burkinans’ boundless longing for freedom, which has led to a major revolution?
As Slavoj Zizek has been warning the many anti-government movements for years: it is not particularly difficult to whip up a crowd and to shout that things have to change. The important thing is what happens on the day after the uprising.
Kalakuta Republik is neither a biography of Fela Kuti, nor a musical showcasing the musician’s work. It is a thrilling study of artistic engagement and what this can set in motion. A performance with an infectious energy. A little piece of Africa without clichés. An Africa in a globalised world to which Serge-Aimé Coulibaly and his generation of artists are committed and to which they want to draw attention.