If you’d like to see something really different you should head to the Barbican this week. For one week only, their stage is home to an intoxicating dance piece that is infused with jazz and afrobeat influences. Made by Burkina Faso-born Serge Aimé Coulibaly it recreates Kalakuta Republic: the commune where Nigerian musician and political activist Fela Kuti lived during the 70s (until the military junta burned it to the ground in 1977). Radical art about radical politics.
The spirit of Fela Kuti is ever-present in this intoxicating dance piece by Burkina Faso-born choreographer Serge Aimé Coulibaly, which speaks of modern-day Africa and the musical artist as freedom-loving figurehead. In the first half all is monochrome. Dancers pulsate, whirl, plunge and vibrate, their relentless movement exploding with virtuoso energy. Projections depicting scenes of conflict serve as a backdrop for the performers, their perpetual march an urgent metaphor for the desire to keep living. Bursts of colour propel the second half, a place reminiscent of Kuti’s Shrine nightclub, where discord was confronted just as hope blossomed from solidarity and social consciousness. While provocative messages illuminate the stage, to a score echoing jazz-infused Afrobeat, decadent dance depicts the struggles of an individual. In honouring Nigeria’s activist, musical legend and political maverick, Fela Kuti, Kalakuta Republik reflects on the role of anti-establishment artists today.