Niçoise with sweet potatoes

Differences can be harmonious and allow people to come together despite their background and roots.

A scene from "Coup Fatal."

What is more surprising than a mix of traditional Congolese music and European baroque music? What is more powerful than someone who makes another culture’s codes his own? “Coup Fatal” (currently on tour in Italy and Germany) is a collaboration between the Congolese baroque singer, Serge Kakudji, the Belgian choreographer, Alain Platel and the Belgian jazz musician, Fabrizio Cassol. A bit tongue-in-cheek, the makers explain that they have made something like a salad; mixing a bit of Europe and a bit of Africa. This “niçoise with sweet potatoes” brings thirteen musicians and dancers from Kinshasa plus the counter-tenor to the scene, under the musical supervision of Rodriguez Vangama.

Here‘s the trailer.

I saw the show in Brussels. After the show, try to explain to a friend what you saw and I bet words will fall short to describe this inexplicable experience. This performance appeals directly to the senses and the emotions invoked. The absence of a clear story, logic or structure forces you to be guided by your instincts.

When I asked Serge Kakudji what Coup Fatal is about, he simply answered: “Coup Fatal is like the Congo River, you expect a wave to arrive but you never know when and how it will manifest itself.” I would even go as far as saying this show intelligently represents several facets of Congolese daily life: a day-by-day-existence enveloping the absence of thoughts about “tomorrow,” poverty, political corruption but above all, a determination to overcome hardship. According to Alain Platel it is remarkable how much that determination lacks in Western society.

Alain Platel smartly let the dancers’ bodies express in their own individuality the contradictory phenomena we can find in Congo; for instance, poverty opposed to the dandy movement better known as “sapologie.” This paradox is even present in the setting. In fact, the sculptor, Freddy Tsimba, offered an incredibly beautiful curtain made of war bullets for the show.

I think the paradox is everywhere in “Coup Fatal.” Perhaps, the main lesson here is that differences can be harmonious and allow people to come together despite their background and roots.

Further Reading

Take it to the house

On this month’s AIAC Radio, Boima celebrates all things basketball, looking at its historical relationships with music and race, then focusing on Africa’s biggest names in the sport.

El maestro siempre

Maky Madiba Sylla is a militant filmmaker excavating iconic Africans whose legacies he believes need to be known widely—like the singer Laba Sosseh.

Madiba and Mali

There is a remarkable connection between Mali and South Africa, dating back to the liberation struggle, and actively encouraged by the author’s work.

A devil’s deal

Rwanda’s proposed refugee deal with Britain is another strike against President Paul Kagame’s claim that he is an authentic and fearless pan-Africanist who advocates for the less fortunate.

Red and Black

Yunxiang Gao’s new book takes a fresh look at connected lives of African American and Chinese leftist activists, artists and intellectuals after World War II.

The Dar es Salaam years

In the early 1970s, Walter Rodney, expelled from Jamaica, took a post in Tanzania. In Leo Zeilig’s new book, he captures those exciting, but also difficult years and how it formed Rodney.

Rushing to boycott

The cultural boycott of Russia turns to the flawed precedent of apartheid South Africa for inspiration, while ignoring the much more carefully considered boycott of official Israeli culture by the BDS Movement.

The party question

Marcel Paret’s book, “Fragmented Militancy: Precarious Resistance in South Africa after Racial Inclusion,” tries to make sense of politics in South African urban informal settlements.

The missing pieces

Between melancholy, terror, and disillusion, Petit Pays is a groundbreaking and eye-opening take on one of the darkest pages of African history, one that is often misunderstood in the West.