more music. more dance. more life. more future.

As audience members stream into The Kitchen, a multimedia performance venue in Chelsea, they are faced with a striking stage picture that appropriately launches more more more…future, a music/dance piece by Congolese director and choreographer Faustin Linyekula. Four very imposing men sit or stand stone still, grasping their instruments and microphones, at the ready. As people mill around looking for seats and greeting friends, the musicians maintain their unflinching stares, as if daring us to turn away. The tableau is captivating, not only because most of them are dressed head to toe in brightly colored sequins, wielding instruments that look like they could bring the house down; the intensity of their stance and expressions are at once irresistible and alienating.

Though the performers hail from Kisangani, a city in the Democratic Republic of Congo, we as the audience become the foreigners and they begin to show us what this world was all about. We have surrendered our minds and senses, and must now go along for the ride.

What follows in the next 90 minutes is part rock concert, part contemporary dance, part storytelling, and all political statement. Two singers and three dancers embody the revelry and emotion of an all-night concert in Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic republic of Congo, where, according to Linyekula, concerts invite you at 9, but nobody shows up until midnight. The rich instrumentation of experimental rock, African funk and upbeat tribal rhythms set the tone for emotionally raw and incredibly human dances. The warmly colored, slowly fading lights parallel our slow immersion in the nighttime world of this distant city.

The collective result of these elements is a meditation on the suspension of time and social structure that takes place undercover of darkness. In a release from the hardship and despair of their daily lives and the social ills that plague their city, these men move and yell and attempt to shed the burdens of reality in favor of an alcohol and music inspired fantasy, acting “as if everything was granted in a country where everything is to be built again each morning”, as Linyekula describes.

In addition to the tension between reality and fantasy, there is a struggle between the earthly spatial and temporal worlds. Memories of a painful past versus hope for the future. French, the language of the colonizers, versus English, the language of pop culture and mass media, versus tribal language which is used to communicate the most visceral sentiments. Digitally engineered sounds created by elaborate electrical instruments versus the rhythms of moving bodies and rustling clothing and stamping feet. All of these melt and fuse together to create the world of contradictions in which these artists live their lives.

Despite the confusing dichotomies of ancient and modern, local and global, the beautiful and violent, the underlying message in the piece is hopeful, yearning for a future that is different and, as the title suggests, more. A sort of anti-nihilism, floating amidst a constantly changing national identity, brutal war and economic hardship, these artists are simply asking for more life.

In his program note, Linyekula recalls the “energy of 70’s and 80’s punk movements in Europe and America… How young people took music to destroy everything around, in a self-claimed no-future society.”  But he and his collaborators are determined to transform that angsty, rebellious spirit into something positive. Linyekula continues, “If it’s impossible for us to send to hell a future we never had, if it’s difficult to go on ruining our pile of ruins… let’s try to dream, the feet firmly kept on the ground, and just to imagine more future…”

more more more… future was presented by The Kitchen and FIAF’s Crossing the Line 2011 Festival, as part of a US tour produced by MAPP International Productions in partnership with the African Contemporary Arts Consortium.

The production was created at Studios Kabako.

 

– Meropi Peponides, Theatre MFA ’13

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