Jazz Club – niiiice

Posted on March 29, 2011

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Some freestylin' at the 2nd anniversary of Café Jazz

Through the wonders of modern technology (blogs, twitter, mobile phones etc), I managed to meet up with a fellow Lubumbashi Brit last Friday night. His name is Ian and he has been working out here for a number of years, doing some marvellous and hugely important work at a street children charity here in Lubumbashi, work that is naturally close to my heart after my time with Amani. The Kimbilio project Kimbilio signifies ‘a place to run to for safety’ in Swahili – has been up and running for a mere 2 years but it seems to have made some huge strides already. They are currently in the process of setting up a day centre (Centre Kimbilio) in the city and an accommodation centre (Maison Kimbilio) outside the city for the street children. You can read Ian’s fascinating blogs here http://lifeinlubumbashi.blogspot.com/ – they include some great photos and updates on the construction of the buildings and their plans going forwards. I look forward to checking out Kimbilio at some point very soon and being able to tell you more!

So on Friday night we met at a venue in town called Halle de l’Étoile, which was hosting Café Jazz, a once-a-month showing of local talent. I’d been warned prior to turning up that it was ‘jazz’ in the loosest sense of the term, that it was normally an open mic type of occasion and that the music could therefore be hit or miss… So imagine my surprise when I arrived and heard really good Congolese music being played! It turns out they were celebrating Cafe Jazz’s 2nd anniversary and it was quite the party atmosphere! First up, some Congolese rap accompanied by a live band – an excellent start to proceedings!

Congolese rap at Cafe Jazz in Lubumbashi, DR Congo from Gabriel Chapman on Vimeo.

The Congolese love their music, that much is certain. It’s flavoursome, it’s vibrant, it’s joyous – much like the Congolese themselves. The music is varied but there’s a lot of salsa and reggae-like stuff, with Congolese vocals over the top, obviously. Five seconds into anything they start playing over here and you immediately want to move your body, it’s infectious. Except that you run the risk of looking like an idiot doing so. Oh well, nothing new there then – I certainly went for it!

So after the rappers came and went, we were treated to some dancing. First up were young girls and boys, dressed (and made) up in tribal gear. First they gave us a group rendition of tribal-style dancing, which was then followed by individual 2-minute-long solo performances. All this while being backed by live music from the band. Totally awesome.

Kids dancing at Cafe Jazz in Lubumbashi, DR Congo from Gabriel Chapman on Vimeo.

Then came some more dancing: 3 young men performing Capoeira, the martial arts-influenced art form. Did you know that the word capoeira comes from the Tupi-guarani (South American) language and refers to areas of low vegetation in the Brazilian interior? Fact for the day. Anyway, the performance was hugely enthralling, and tense. It certainly looked as though they might actually fight each other at one point. The night then got slightly (more) random with the introduction of prizes (crates of beer) – this continued throughout the night.

The highlight of the prize winners – in my eyes – was some small kid, who didn’t look older than 14, yet dressed in suit and smart shoes, winning the ‘Best improvisation’ prize. We had absolutely no idea what that meant at the time – he too got a crate of beer for it but clearly couldn’t accept it… As it turns out, his improvisation was of the singing kind. And so the band kicked off with a random number and off he went! It was surprisingly brilliant, I must admit. Added entertainment came from members of the public as they repeatedly came and gave him money while he was performing, as they had done with all the acts so far that evening – he seemed to make quite a bit too…

Improvisation kid at Cafe Jazz in Lubumbashi, DR Congo from Gabriel Chapman on Vimeo.

Mid-way through the songs and dancing, there came out of nowhere a quiz between a muzungu (whitey/foreigner) and a Congolese guy. It was one of the oddest things I’ve seen in a while, that’s for sure. It lasted about 10 minutes and ended with the muzungu winning, although only just. He was then asked to perform a victory dance, which was not only unexpected but also absolutely hilarious! To his credit, he was much more…fluid…than I imagined he might be! White men can’t dance? Oh no, that’s jump… I’ve certainly taken a few notes for the next time I hit the d-floor.

The best thing about this video though is the way that all the Congolese flock to said muzungu, first the woman, then the men, and then the children – any excuse to dance!

Muzungu dancer at Cafe Jazz in Lubumbashi, DR Congo from Gabriel Chapman on Vimeo.

To finish off the evening we had some freestyle playing from the band and some lengthy introductions to each band member, with each offered the chance of a 15 seconds solo performance. What was supposed to be a quiet evening having a few beers and meeting new people turned into a wonderfully random evening full of culture, life and fun. It was a real education! This vibrant country and its equally colourful population really know how to have a good time. And when you think about the tough times that they have been put through for so long, their attitude to life is something to be truly admired!

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