Miss Baby Sol at the Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen in Hoxton

9th October 2016

I met Miss Baby Sol for the first time at the Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, Hoxton.

It was a fun Sunday afternoon event:

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I was looking forward to hear her voice and, finally, she started the show!

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The crowd was immediately fascinated by her soul music vocal style. In addition, for this occasion, the acoustic was leaded by a Nigerian guitarist/singer.

‘They Drink It in the Congo’ at Almeida theatre in Islington

1st October 2016

Despite the wide cultural opportunities that London offers, it is quite uncommon to find events – especially theater plays – entirely dedicated to the DRC. When I discover ‘They Drink It in the Congo’ at Almeida theatre, I was extremely curios  to attend and, why not, make some interesting contacts.

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The story focuses on Stef, a white campaign coordinator, who aims to organize a Congolese cultural festival in London, “Congo Voice”, in order to create awareness about the problems in the DRC. Despite her good intentions, she encounters numerous obstacles from the deeply divided Congolese diaspora and, particularly, from the radical political group called Les Combattants.

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Overall, I enjoyed the ironic and sensitive work of Adam Brace. He has successfully brought up some very important issues which are contemporary but not enough know. I particularly enjoyed how Adam was able to underline, through a switch between present and past, the permanent hypocrisy which is behind a long and painful relationship between the DRC and the West. Mostly, the sense of guilt that Western people (or some of them) have towards the African continent.

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As a critical point, I would have avoided the shallow and quite useless personal relationship between Stef and her ex-boyfriend, an event consultant. I understand that probably Adam wanted to alleviate the show, adding a sentimental bit to it. However, I think, his very strong comedian approach during most of the play would have been enough for that. Also, I was quite disappointed to discover that none of the actors/actresses/musicians is actually from Congolese heritage. It was a negative point for my research but, at the same time, I appreciated the challenge of wanting to tell an international story which is so rarely represented.

KASAI MASAI at Vortex Jazz Club in Dalston

23rd September 2016

The Vortex Jazz Club, part of Dalston Culture House, is one of the best place to listen live music while drinking red wine. It is a very intimate venue, with wide-lateral windows through which is possible to observe the eventful Gillet Square from the top.

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Despite the club is mostly dedicated to jazz music, that night the show was performed by the Congolese band called Kasai Masai. Their music, based on a fusion of traditional Congolese Soukous, Rumba and Funk styles, creates an incredible fast-paced rhythm!

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That night, their original Urban Equatorial Funk genre made the audience dance with energy and passion. At the end of the gig I spoke with the percussionist, singer and dancer, Nickens Nkoso, and the guitarist, Otis Tabasenge Lumumba, who seemed happy to collaborate on my research.img_7040

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KONONO NO. 1 + KONGO DIA NTOTILA at Rich Mix Cultural Foundation in Shoreditch

30th July 2016

The moment I discovered that the great Congolese band Konono No.1 from Kinshasa was returning to London, I immediately bought a ticket for the show at the Rich Mix in Shoreditch. Their music, based on a vibrant combination of traditional, electronic and rock sounds, was accompanied by strong voices and energetic dances. As a result, they were able to electrify the whole venue!

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 In addition, that night I also had the pleasure to discover a musical group which I didn’t know before, the Kongo Dia Ntotila. They opened the show as Konono No.1 supporting band. They are composed by two Congolese musicians and three other musicians with different backgrounds. Their music mixes Central African rhythms with jazz style, creating a curios blend of different cultures.

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At the end of the gigs, I had a nice conversation with Mulele Matondo Africa, Congolese solo artist and bassist of the Kongo Dia Ntotila. I was very happy to find out that the band is based in London and would like to be involved with my research.

Chestnut launch day in West Croydon

16th July 2016

I met Sheeda Queen, born Priska Kibala, for the first time almost six months ago. She is a lovely young Congolese writer who has published her first work entitled Chestnut. The book present the adventures of Maleka, a young girl originally from Angola who, after her dear aunt’s death, suddenly find herself to survive alone in South London. It is a story of struggle, strength and search for identity; alleviated by a colloquial language and a strong sense of humor. Despite the book is a fiction novel, I found many similarities with Priska’s life story and personal character.

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Reading her voice has made me feel personally closer to Priska and this is why I decided to participate to the Chestnut promotional event. She organized a stand with banners, flyers and business cards in one of the main pedestrian streets in the heart of West Croydon. I spent the morning with Priska, her family and friends, from whom she is very much loved. Together we had much fun trying to attract people and advertise her work.

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Malebo international film festival 2016 at the Dalston Roof Park in Dalston

4th May 2016

Over the last summer, from May to September, the young Congolese community has organized a film festival, screening Congolese films every first Wednesday of the month at the Dalston Roof Park, in Hackney.

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I was there during the “Elephant’s Dream” documentary screening. The movie, directed by Kristof Bilsen, describes three State-owned institutions running on their last legs and their workers in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The difficult reality of Kinshasa is presented through different but interconnected daily lives: a women who works at the central post office, two colleagues at the railway station, and the group of firemen in the only fire station of the capital.

The Dalston Roof Park, close to the Dalston CLR James Library, is an interesting hip-pub for summertime. It has a tine-cute chilling area  on one side and a more spacious dance floor on the other side. Both spots offer a great view on the city. Despite the place gets normally very crowded during the weekend, especially if the hot English weather, that night has been a relaxed one. The event has mostly attracted young Congolese, which seemed to know each other from before. I could have some informal chats with few of them and build up connections with two poets which will become my informants as the research goes on.

 

Commemorating Mama Masika at the Church of St Mary and St Michael in Shadwell

19th March 2016

Rebecca Masika Katsuva, better known as ‘Mama Masika’, was a Congolese human rights campaigner who deeply helped the victims of war and rape in the Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. A month after her death, a group of London based Congolese activists organized an afternoon of commemoration. The event was held in a indoor place beside the Roman Catholic Church of St Mary and St Michael, in Shadwell, and more then 50 Congolese were attending.

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Together with religious and political discussion, the community remembered Mama Masika with poetry and songs.

                        Photo credit to Letitia Kamayi

The first picture portrays Mell Nyoko, a young Congolese spoken word artist and writer, while is performing two of her English tribute poems. The second picture portrays Natasha Makengo, a young Congolese singer, while is singing a touching French solo without any instrumental accompaniment. Their charismatic performances were very much appreciated by the Congolese audience.