This Utrecht festival of international music and culture is presenting a series of video reports on their online TV channel as part of the “Reports from Other Continents” project. The series will travel to the DRC to the town of Sake, where the inhabitants heal their trauma through traditional folk dance.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the director, producer and human rights champion Horeb Bulambo Shindano went to meet the musician Baeni Mukuba who had the brilliant idea of organising a weekly folklore show to free the inhabitants of Sake from their trauma. The featured video is about a young group from two families from Sake, a town located 30 km west of Goma in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Over the past 20 years, the people of Sake have been forced to leave their town for fear of conflict. As with other parts of eastern Congo, many Sake women have been raped, and many children have been abducted to join armed groups. These atrocities meant that the population of Sake were living in a state of psychosis and permanent trauma. To remedy this, Baeni Mukuba launched his own remedy: a weekly public traditional folklore show to heal the wounds of the town in his own way.
Although this ritual is not explicitly mentioned, we can imagine that the Ekongo dance, a parade of war, plays a part through its expression of bravery and the supple yet frantic rhythm of its jumps and movements. The instruments also play a very important role: four djembes, two of which play sono and two others that play accompaniment, with the musicians clad in outfits made partly of animal skin. By embodying courage, this liberating dance tells the story of a people who are victims of conflict and whose only way to survive is through dance and music.
“Vengo Ganao” features production from London-based duo Village Cuts, the excellent guitarist Patrick McMahon aka Mahon Sounds and Colombian champeta legend Louis Towers.
Village Cuts has organised a transatlantic meeting between Africa and the Caribbean through the prism of London club culture. This DJ/producer duo, formed in 2018, is setting the dancefloor alight in promotion of new global underground sounds such as champeta, a genre belonging to the folklore of Afro-Colombian music. They are keen to pull it into the modern world, and have partnered with one of its legends, Louis Towers, to do so. The aim was to showcase the talents of the Black Atlantic to a European audience, especially via champeta, a genre from the Afro-Colombian communities of the Caribbean coast, which is experiencing something of a boom right now.
For their debut on Galletas Calientes Records, the duo have dropped a double-title 45 with Colombian champeta legend Louis Towers (“el único papa rasta”) and British virtuoso guitarist Patrick McMahon aka Mahon Sounds. The first track, released in December, has an 80s Congolese electro-soukous style, while “Vengo Ganao” is based on Towers’ Afro-Colombian vocals and transports us to a sunny beach in Barranquilla, where a Caribbean sound system sets the mood.
Although they’ve never before set foot in the promised land of champeta, the duo have managed to feel their way into the genre their use of West African rhythms called “despeluques” (translation: frenzy) and an unprecedented use of one of the most distinguished samples of the Yamaha SK5, the “perreo” – that famous synthesised barking sound typical of Afro-Caribbean music. But beyond its specific characteristics, champeta remains a philosophy first and foremost, one that links Colombia to Africa and shows us the strength of a coastal Africanism that has become a real cultural and musical reference.
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