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Counter tenor Serge Kakudji together with 13 musicians from Kinshasa combine baroque with pop, rock, jazz and a substantial dose of Congolese vitality. Around Kakudji’s vocal parts a whole new, contemporary universe has been created, inspired by the flamboyant ‘sapeurs’, the dandies of Kinshasa who blank out the horrors of war and violence in their country with a penchant for extravagance and exuberance. Director Alain Platel, in whose production pitié Kakudji starred at the HollandFestival in 2009, teamed up with dancer Romain Guion to create the theatrical form. The stage design is by the Congolese artist Freddy Tsimba, renowned for his disturbing war sculptures. The musical direction is by Fabrizio Cassol and Rodriguez Vandama.
In 2009, the young Congolese countertenor Serge Kakudji (1989) gave an impressive performance at the Holland Festival in pitié!, a piece by the Flemish director Alain Platel. This year, both Kakudji and Platel are back with Coup Fatal, a collaboration between Kakudji, the Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwburg (Royal Flemish Theatre, KVS) and Platel's les ballets C de la B. Using the vocal parts of the music of various baroque composers, including Handel and Gluck, Coup Fatal creates a new, contemporary universe of sound, resulting in an exuberant, organic whole of baroque phrases, Congolese pop, rock, jazz and traditional music, driven by Kakudji's high, distinctive voice. In his characteristic surrealist way, Platel, supported by dancer and assistant director Romain Guion, creates a theatrical dimension for the music.
The performance had its beginnings in a project connected with the second edition of Connexion Kin in 2010, the KVS arts festival in Kinshasa, Congo. KVS Congo co-ordinator Paul Kerstens teamed up with Kakudji to initiate an unusual exchange between Western and Congolese music, taking a number of classical baroque arias as their starting point and developing the project into a full-fledged production in the spring of 2014.
At the age of seven Kakudji was hit 'like a meteorite' by an opera scene he saw on television and subsequently set himself the goal of becoming an opera singer. Having followed a number of workshops and singing contests, Kakudji, essentially self-taught and still in his teens, caused a sensation at the New Crowned Hope Festival in Vienna in 2006, singing a number of vocal parts by Mozart in a performance called Dialogue Series: Dinozord III. His raw talent was further honed whilst studying at the Institut Musicale et Pédagogique in the Belgian town of Namur and at the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional de St. Maur-des-Fossés in Paris. In 2008 Kakudji performed in pitié!, Alain Platel's interpretation of Johann Sebastian Bach's Matthäus Passion, which became an international success.
Two years ago Platel opened the Holland Festival with C(H)ŒURS, a performance which featured 150 musicians of the Teatro Real and ten of his own dancers to examine the crushing tension between the individual and the force of the masses to the music of Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi. Coup Fatal is less grim. More than just a deconstruction or Africanisation of baroque, or an homage to this musical style, Coup Fatal is essentially an ode to the haughty elegance of the Congolese 'Sapeurs' – the dandies of Kinshasa in their colourful and extravagant dress. The unadulterated brilliance of these proud Sapeurs shines through in the performance's cocky, self-assured and baroque bombast. They suppress the gruesome history of war and violence with a love for opulence, exuberance and grand gestures, taking their commentary beyond irony. The musical direction is in the hands of the Brussels based composer Fabrizio Cassol (1964) together with the guitarist Rodriguez Vangama.
The initial push for staging Coup Fatal only took two weeks to establish as the musicians, under the direction of Vangama, gelled magnificently. The set was devised in collaboration with the artist Freddy Tsimba (1967), who rose to world fame with his contributions to various editions of the Dakar Biennial. Since 1998, Tsimba has expressed the harshness of war and the solidarity of the displaced, creating life sized, distressing sculptures of welded, recycled scrap materials, ranging from empty (i.e. used) cartridge cases to old knives and forks. Tsimba's work is a protest against war as well as a monument for human tragedies caused by war. His fragmented, expressive and provocative sculptures mirror universal human issues and their devastating outcomes.
In the space of a couple of years, the ensemble grew into a tight-knitted orchestra with the support of KVS and with Cassol as their musical adviser. Over the course of this process, the ensemble's performances became more dramatic and theatrical in character – a shift which has since been further built upon in collaboration with Platel, Guion and les ballets C de la B, Coup Fatal being the brilliant result.
From when he was a child the countertenor Serge Kakudji (Lumumbashi,1989) had dreamt of having a career as an opera singer. After having taken part in a number of workshops and song contests in Zimbabwe and Congo, he became an instant international sensation at the age of 17 when he made a huge impression at the New Crowned Hope Festival in Vienna featuring in choreographer Faustin Linyekula's The Dialogue Series: Dinozord III, a production he travelled the world with on and off until 2008. In 2006, Kakudji returned to Congo to compose and perform in the Likembe Opera – the first opera in Swahili in history. Only in 2007 did he start his formal training as a singer at the Institut Musicale et Pédagogique in the Belgian town of Namur and at the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional de St. Maur-des-Fossés in Paris. He started his collaborations with Alain Platel in 2008, when he was asked to play the lead in pitié!, Platel's music theatre work based on Bach's monumental Matthäus Passion, which took him on a world tour of 45 cities. In the 2011-2012 season he made his debut as Tolomeo in Handel's Giulio Cesare in Egitto under the direction of Jean-Claude Malgoire at the Palace of Versailles. That season he also performed in La Folie d’Héracles at the Comédie-Française in Paris and the Comédie de Valence as well as in the world premiere of Henri Seroka's Credo – in a role which was especially written for him – at the Classic Open Air Festival in Berlin. Kakudji was beautifully portrayed only recently in Ibbe Daniëls and Koen Vidal's documentary Rêve Kakudji (2013).
Alain Platel (1956, Gent, Belgium) trained as a remedial educationalist and is a self-trained director. In 1984 he set up a small theatre group with a number of friends and relatives to work collectively. Emma (1988) signalled his concentration on directing. He was responsible for Bonjour Madame (1993), La Tristeza Complice (1995) and Iets op Bach (1998), which propelled les ballets C de la B (as the group was now called) to the international top. His collaborations with the composer Fabrizio Cassol (1964) go back to 2005, when he was invited to create the opening performance of the new Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwburg (Royal Theatre of Flanders), in which he united various choirs from Brussels with varying cultural backgrounds. Up until 2006, Platel's work had been exuberant in both the diversity of performers and themes, but vsprs (Holland Festival 2006), based on Claudio Monteverdi's Vespro della Beata Vergine proved to be a new turning point in his career, revealing a world of passion and desire, which evoked a more profound and intense experience.
After the baroque pitié! (2008), which was performed at the Holland Festival in 2009, Out Of Context – for Pina (January 2010) was an almost ascetic reflection of the movement repertoire of spasms and tics. Since, Platel has continued searching within this movement idiom for a translation of feelings which are too powerful. The yearning for something transcending the individual has become increasingly palpable.
In 2012, Platel was back at the Holland Festival, stunning the audience with C(H)ŒURS, a living tableau dealing with the dangerous beauty of the masses, featuring the one hundred and fifty strong choir of the Teatro Real from Madrid and ten dancers from his own company. Coup Fatal will be Platel's sixth appearance at the Holland Festival.
The Belgian saxophonist and composer Fabrizio Cassol (Ougrée, 1964) studied at the Conservatoire Royal de Liège from 1982 until 1985, graduating with a higher diploma in chamber music and winning first prize for saxophone. In 1984, Cassol started touring with his newly formed jazz band Trio Bravo; his fellow band members were tuba and trombone player Michel Massot and percussionist Michel Debrulle. Five years on he became one of the founders of Kaai, now a legendary Brussels jazz club and stage for improvised music. In 1991, Cassol together with drummer Stéphane Galland and bassist Michel Hatzigeorgiou, ventured on a memorable trip deep into the rain forests of Central Africa, where they met the Aka pygmy people, inspiring them to name their new trio Aka Moon. In 1992 Cassol composed music for dance theatre for the first time, for a project by Catherine Lazar and Brigitte Kaquet. In 1999 and 2000 he collaborated with Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and her dance company Rosas, composing music for I Said I (1999) and In real time (2000). In 1998, Cassol won the Belgian Django Award for best French language artist. From 2000 until 2007 he was artist in residence at the Brussels opera La Monnaie. His partnership with Alain Platel started in 2005, when he was handed the musical direction of the choir project Uit de Bol/Coup de Choeurs, the official opening performance for the inauguration of the new building of the Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwburg (Royal Theatre of Flanders) in Brussels. Cassol's work was first experienced at the Holland Festival in the ballets C de la B's performance vsprs (2006), which was inspired by Vespro della Beata Vergine by Claudio Monteverdi.
Les ballets C de la B are world famous for their eclectic, almost surreal mix of contemporary dance, spoken theatre and music. The company (in full: les ballets Contemporains de la Belgique) was formed in 1984 by Alain Platel, initially as a collective of friends and relatives. With Jan Fabre, Wim Vandekeybus, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Jan Lauwers, les ballets C de la B are considered part of the Flemish New Wave, a generation of idealistic theatre makers bent on breaking down barriers, giving the Flemish performance arts a powerful new impulse in the 1980's. Through the years the company has developed into a creative platform for a number of choreographers; as well as Alain Platel they are Christine De Smedt, Koen Augustijnen and Lisi Esteras. Hans van den Broeck used to be with the company until he formed his own group cie Soit in 2002. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui choreographed with les ballets C de la B until 2006; he now has his own company Eastman.
Les ballets C de la B have always been concerned with giving talented young artists from diverse disciplines and backgrounds the opportunities to participate in the creative process. The mix of artistic visions within C de la B means that the company is difficult to pigeon-hole. However, the company do have a certain look and feel which they have developed through the years, being popular, anarchic, eclectic and political, and true to the slogan 'this dance is the world's and the world is for everyone.'
- based on an idea by
- Paul Kerstens & Serge Kakudji
- a project by
- Serge Kakudji, contratenor and orchestra:
- electric guitar
- Rodriguez Vangama
- acoustic guitar
- Costa Pinto
- bass guitar
- Angou Ingutu
- Eric Ngoya
- Silva Makengo
- Tister Ikomo
- Deb’s Bukaka
- Cédrick Buya
- Jean-Marie Matoko
- 36 Seke
- background vocals
- Russell Tshiebua
- background vocals
- Bule Mpanya
- musical direction
- Fabrizio Cassol, Rodriguez Vandama
- Rodriguez Vangama
- artistic managing
- Alain Platel
- assistant artistic management
- Romain Guion
- Freddy Tsimba
- Carlo Bourguignon
- Max Stuurman
- KVS & les ballets C de la B
- Théâtre National de Chaillot (Paris), Holland Festival, Festival d’Avignon, Theater im Pfalzbau (Ludwigshafen), TorinoDanza, Opéra de Lille, Wiener Festwochen
‘When Kakudji sings, the golden tracery of his voice dispels the overwrought posturing around him, offering us a glimpse of the sublime.’The Guardian