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Best of 2010 | SPACE 2: Launch

by Roger Young, images by Sydelle Willow Smith / 31.12.2010

Flamme Kapaya walks onto stage under cover of almost darkness, in a red sequined tail coat holding a double necked electric guitar. He sits on a low stool and begins to play a slight tinkling spacey guitar sound that sways sideways like planets in orbit. The rest of the band filter onto stage; his bassist is dressed in a tan trenchcoat looking like a metrosexual spy, a man in a gold sequin suit takes the microphone as if he’s about to launch into song and then does nothing. A man in a suit of money takes the mic next to him. Then, one by one, three, um, men, women, not sure what because they come out dressed in some kind of gingham frill cloud that makes them look like multilayered balls of picnic table. The audience at City Hall is already knocked slightly off balance and then it kicks in, all P-Funk meets frenetic Ndombolo rhythms up in your face. Studio Kabako’s “More more more… Future” project sounds like Public Enemy on jazz mushrooms by French metalheads.

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Channeling the poetry of Antoine Vumilia Muhindo, More More More Future is a collaboration between choreographer Faustin Linyekula, fashion designer Lamine Badian Kouyate and Kapaya’s band but it’s so seamlessly one organism that it’s impossible to imagine the rolling throbbing ritualistic cosmic energy could ever be divided into parts. During the hour and a half set/stageshow/mindfuck the only thing that snapped me out of the Kinshasa trance state bought on by the beyond-prog funk progressions were the ADD idiots behind me constantly chatting and the old school Constantia liberal in front of me trying to catch it all on her iPhone.

The weak, however, are weeded out after an hour when a growling wild riffing sluggish pounding slips into a lull and everyone on stage slowly makes their way to behind the drums and begins to chant. The audience stands to applaud. The chanting continues. Pockets of audience begin to leave. The chanting continues. The show is not over. The crowd divides into those leaving and those sitting down. Sporadic clapping along to the chants ripples through the half that remains. The chanting increases in energy, audience ululating snaps through the dimness and bounces off the high City Hall ceiling. The onstage clapping breaks into a fast rhythm, the crowd has silenced. Chanting has become seemingly random shouting until a deep hard guitar riff breaks through, the drums clatter and snap, the guitar plings the high notes and the man in gold intones poetry in French, it’s translations projected behind him. It ebbs builds and smashes, slowly the dancers are stripping from their gingham clouds down to spandex. The lights burst out again. The man in the money suit shouts from offstage like a General with rabies commanding a ghost army.

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Suddenly the dancer in gold spandex grabs the drummer’s stool and throws it across the stage, narrowly missing Kapaya, another dancer climbs on the bassists back, the other trying to rip the guitar away, the singers rush to the rescue, it’s a riot in slow motion, the music not missing a beat, singers, poets, guitarists, sequins, spandex rolling and bouncing manically in the flashing lights, crescendoing like scrap metal falling off a rusty truck into an oncoming religious march in the twenty fifth century. It lulls again, they break away, the gold sequined dude intones poetry, everyone makes their way stage front, sits with backs to the crowd. The man in the money suit asks for the lights to be switched out, “so that we can begin”. Clouds are projected over the filigree walls, the guitar makes it’s planet sound, faces appear in the clouds, Money suit says their names “Mobutu, Lumumba, really that was just a warm up, ah, yes, Lumumba, Lumumba” and through a list of names, King Leopold, Kabila, Tshombe, invoking ghosts, then the band and the dancers faces slip into the clouds and then he says “I promise you, what you’ve seen is just the warm up, we can finally begin”. And then it ends, starting Pan African Space Station 2010: SPACE 2 off by completely blowing minds.

The third annual PASS started on the 12th September and is still going in SPACE 1, which is the online radio station broadcasting everything from Hip Hop to Nu Soul to Shangaan Electro twenty four hours a day for a month. SPACE 2 is weeklong mishmash of musique from Pan Africa and the Diaspora in improbable venues all over Cape Town. It’s decidedly un-mainstream, the minimal looking marketing and strange logic of the festival guide almost designed to keep it below the radar. On Wednesday I missed Theo Parrish, it’s embarrassing I know and I don’t want to talk about it, but the low key nature of the program expects you to know your shit and I simply didn’t register until the morning after what was actually going on. Luckily I was quick to pick up on my mistake and for the next three days, in churches, a nightclub and an arts center, had my perceptions reconfigured constantly.

Listen to Studio Kaboko’s hour and a half set here.

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*All images © Sydelle Willow Smith.

See more PASS coverage here.

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