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Kasai Allstars - Félicité

  by Maarten Schiethart

published: 10 / 5 / 2018

Kasai Allstars - Félicité


Maarten Schiethart reflects on new film 'Félicité' and its accompanying soundtrack, which, curremtly touring European cinemas, is set in the Congo,and features the Kasaï Allstars in several bar scenes.

Showing in cinemas since Autumn 2017, 'Félicité' features the Kasaï Allstars on screen but, however, playing second fiddle however. Singer Félicité desperately needs money for her son's operation. The film directed by Alain Gomis illustrates her hustling in the bustling capital Kinshasa, with tragi-comic and beautifully surreal scenes which also have a role for the Kinshasa Orchestra, 'l'Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste' who perform three compositions by Arvo Pärt, are filmed casually dressed whilst rehearsing in a modest room. Félicité is a strong woman, but somewhat unlucky in her relationship with a man who is unremitting in his effort to repair her refrigerator. We see only a dozen or so scenes with the Kasaï Allstars in a small bar, yet the camera is that close that the performances, and pub brawls, have a great intimacy. The war ravaged Kasaï region - the river and region have the same name - in the Democratic Republic of the Congo delivers just about the most challenging music known today. The violence doesn't show in the hectic city which has the vibe of an immense village lacking prominent buildings, Kinshasa is the scenery with its narrow streets and busy market places and overcrowded hospitals where one has to bribe to get something done. The dialogues in Lingala are riddled with French for just about anything in numbers, sizes and administration. These remains of Congo's colonial past, a horrific chapter in Belgium's Royal Family history play, no further role whereas Arvo Pärt's (Estonian) music suits the moral dilemma and hardship, and adds a European touch. Spiritual and sensitive, it juxtaposes the hypnotizing local congotronics, the word coined by the record label for their series headlined by Konono Numéro Un. Work, rest and play is the motto as we follow Félicité over a few days in her life. The film's bright colours bring a sunny touch to the daily misery. Optimism and solidarity are side-by-side with deception and bribery. 'Félicité' includes a beautiful nocturnal scene, a drowning nightmare, as the Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste performs Arvo Pärt's 'Fratres'. Played by Vero Tshanda, Félicité sings with the Kasaï Allstars. Deemed not good enough as an actress, Muambuyi is the actual singer on record. I can't help feeling the Kasaï Allstars deserved a few extra minutes in the film. Imagine a small bar with cheap booze and no stage, crowded with magnificent musicians, aged 18 to 80, standing a few meters away. Health & Safety officers wouldn't survive. The fascinating soundtrack features a couple of tracks from Kasaï Allstars' 2008 and 2014 albums interchanging with the orchestra and new tracks. The original plan was to release a series of twelve inch remixes. The double CD features all ten remixes. The 2LP set - just 27 euros at my local record store - features five of the best of them on side D. Superior on vinyl of course, Nigeria's Ekiti Sound System remix 'Salute to Kalombo' to full blown proportions; RAMZI's remix of 'Félicité Three' and Africaine 808's remix of 'In Praise of Homeboys' - a truly innovative track if there ever was one - show how a very fine brand of urban dance music is developing. The download coupon with the 2LP set offers a second fabulous remix by RAMZI; the mind-blowing ESA remix of 'Drowning Goat' . With its background in metal music; 'Drowning Goat' is remixed by one Daedelus. Never a dull moment. It was only during the first half hour of the film that I felt slightly bored. Quickly enough I became overwhelmed. The compelling directness in the heavy percussion music wasn't at all new to me but experiencing it on the big screen felt very much like a surprise.

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Kasai Allstars - Félicité

Kasai Allstars - Félicité

Kasai Allstars - Félicité

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