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SPACE 2: Launch

by Roger Young, images by Sydelle Willow Smith / 05.10.2010

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.

PASS Studio Kabako

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.

PASS Studio Kabako

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.

PASS Studio Kabako

*All images © Sydelle Willow Smith.

See more PASS coverage here.

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RESPONSES (21)
  1. Malibongwe Tyilo says:

    well put. i was there, i was totally blown away. What an amazing show.

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  2. Roger Young says:

    For me, Capetonians will be forever divided into those who were there and those who were not.

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  3. kuriass says:

    “the old school Constantia liberal in front of me trying to catch it all on her iPhone” – this you know because you went through her purse afterwards to locate her address and her DA membership card.

    As usual on Mahala, certain sectors of the public are easy and acceptable targets for stereotyping and ridicule, while others are off-limits for similar treatment.

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  4. Mick says:

    Yowzer. Soundslooks like it was amazingness.

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  5. Roger Young says:

    @Kuriass

    Anyone trying to watch a live show on their iPhone while actually at the show is open to ridicule.

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  6. kuriass says:

    Open to ridicule, maybe, but the subject of such crude streotyping is a different matter. You think Obs-dwelling neo-communists don’t have Iphones and don’t know how to use them?

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  7. Roger Young says:

    Oh, I’m sure they do. She just wasn’t one of them.

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  8. kuriass says:

    And you know this. How?

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  9. Roger Young says:

    Because I saw her. She was white, with a Hermes scarf. She was at a progressive afro rock gig at the city hall. She said loudly to her friend that she didn’t like driving back to Constansia late at night on her own. Jesus are you OCD or something? Stop focusing on the strings.

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  10. BM says:

    Theo Parrish was fking brilliant.

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  11. kuriass says:

    Roger, my comments here do not only refer to the stereotypes in this article alone. Maybe when your comments make equal reference to “tik-headed Mitchells Plain gangsters” and “militant Khayelitsha communists”, then I’ll start believing that your hardcore form of social commentary is invoking these things as a mirror to society’s prejudices rather than evidence of your own.

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  12. Roger Young says:

    stereotype or shorthand?

    if i was to describe every human in every story accurately to the finest detail each story would be a novel.

    The women was a liberal. She lives in Constantia. She had an iPhone. She was of advanced age.

    It’s a description of what I see. OF COURSE IT WILL CONTAIN MY PREJUDICES!

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  13. kuriass says:

    Roger, thanks for the honesty in your last comment. I suppose that of all the spikey, contemporary descriptors, “liberal” has become more controversial of late and has developed local connotations that no dictionary has yet to describe. In particular, the fact that Nzimande and Cronin have recently launched verbal attacks against liberals as enemies of social reform (ironic, no?) and lumped this together with undesirable opposition to media tribunals.

    It poses an interesting question: what does liberalism mean in South Africa today? Is it largely the preserve of white people who still harbour selfish and exclusive desires while projecting an air of outer tolerance and generosity? Or could and should it refer to South Africans of any race or culture that embrace the values that a dictionary definition refers to? Does this make said people capitalists by default because of their “free-market” sympathies?

    May make for an interesting piece on Mahala – Brandon?

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  14. brandon edmonds says:

    @kurlass you’ve pretty much outlined a good article. send it to me. 600-800 words. brandon@mahala.co.za

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  15. kuriass says:

    Brandon, I’m an idiot when it comes to this stuff. Everything in my above comment is the sum total of what I know on the subject. I’m asking for the insights of a more knowledgable and experienced footsoldier. Know anyone?

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  16. anon says:

    give that man a pak!

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  17. Roofless People says:

    Hey, Kuriass, grow a pair and finish what you started, ya nitpickery fuckert.

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  18. Roofless People says:

    p.s: @RY – great description, wish I’d been there. Sounds feckin amazing.

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  19. frog says:

    yes just your typical bunch of congolese art house punks -is there nothing new out there?

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  20. […] PASS | SPACE 2: Launch | Mahala 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 . 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, […]

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  21. Raiven says:

    Wow, wish I was there. The Pan African Space Station is such a great idea, exposing people to the sounds of our continent is so educational and important for the advancement of music, we really are uniquely progressive in Africa…when it comes to music.

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