Serge Aimé Coulibaly on Kalakuta Republik: 'It's the kind of work I love; it's more about the artists and what mess they can create'

This article is from 2019

Kalakuta Republik

credit: Doune photo

Contemporary dance meets African activism in Coulibaly's EIF production

When most tracks are done and dusted in three and a half minutes, it takes a bold musician to keep a song going for a full half hour. But that's what Fela Kuti did, along with all manner of rebellious acts in 1970s Nigeria.

Inspired by the man, his music and his political activism, choreographer Serge Aimé Coulibaly created Kalakuta Republik, named after the compound Kuti lived in alongside his family and band members. In the Kalakuta Republic (note the different last letter), Kuti did whatever he liked (until he was arrested), and Coulibaly follows suit on stage, creating an echo of Kuti's philosophy, rather than an autobiography.

In a show of two distinct halves, the first section is a testament to the dancers' stamina, as they keep going through Kuti's half hour track and beyond. Then, in the second half, Faso Danse Théâtre conjures up the spirit and chaos of a late night Kuti party.

'The second half is a bit wilder,' says Coulibaly. 'It's the kind of work I love to do, it's more about the artists and what mess they can create. We have a saying in Africa that the most beautiful flowers grow in the dirt – so I wanted to see how we could create beauty out of the mess. And to put in perspective all the absurdity of our world.'

Lyceum, 8, 10 & 11 Aug, 8pm; 9 & 10 Aug, 2pm, £20–£25.

Kalakuta Republik

  • 4 stars

Kalakuta Republic was the name that legendary Afrobeat pioneer and radical political activist Fela Kuti gave to his communal compound in the suburbs of Lagos, even declaring it independent from Nigeria in 1970. It burnt to the ground in 1977 following an assault by 1000 armed soldiers. Arrested more than 200 times…