The FAME, festival of films on music, puts the Congolese rumba in the spotlight for its 8th edition at the Gaîté lyrique

The FAME, international festival of films on music, presents about fifteen films, mostly documentaries, for its 8th edition which takes place at the Gaîté Lyrique (Paris) from February 16 to 20. If the program is eclectic, ranging from the punk of Poly Styrene to the electronic French touch, and from the pop of Charlie XCX to the indie rock of Dinosaur Jr, it is the Congolese rumba which takes the lion’s share since three films in competition dedicated to him this year: Bakolo Music International, The Rumba Kings and Rumba Rules, New Genealogies.

That’s good, this musical genre born on the banks of the Congo River (Kinshasa in the DRC and Brazzaville in the Congo) which was the soundtrack of independence, has just, in December 2021, been registered by Unesco in the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The programmers of the FAME festival were still unaware of this good news when they released these three documentaries, “mBut Congolese rumba is a music that has a lot to tell, and these three films are very different and complementary”, explains Olivier Forest, one of the two programmers of this festival in love with all music.

In addition to the screenings is organized a round table around Congolese rumba (Saturday February 19 at 6:15 p.m.) in the presence of several directors and the Ambassador of the Republic of Congo to Unesco who brought the World Heritage registration file. Following this round table, is proposed (Saturday February 19 at 7:45 p.m., free admission) a Congolese rumba DJ set one hundred percent vinyl. On the decks: Etienne Tron, passionate about African and Caribbean music, whose Secousse label is about to publish the soundtrack of Rumba Rules. We haven’t finished dancing.

The Rumba Kings

Of the three documentaries devoted to Congolese rumba, this is the most classic. But, very rich in archives and testimonies, it is also the one that should ideally have been seen first to understand the history of this music born of the rapprochement between Cuban rhythms and those of the Congo in the 1940s. joyful emancipation that accompanied the Congolese in their struggle for independence from the Belgian settler. Including in a very concrete way since in 1960, the Congolese negotiators had taken with them to Brussels the best musicians of the country to celebrate this historic moment. All the figures and stages of the Congolese rumba epic are presented here. Starting from an entire people’s crush on swaying Cuban rhythms, this music has gradually become a genre in its own right, thanks to the contribution of various singers and musicians, in particular talented guitarists, who are appropriate. Wendo Kolosoy, Nicolas Kasanda, Bill Alexandre, Grand Kallé and his African Jazz orchestra, Franco Luambo and his OK Jazz formation: all have contributed to this flamboyant genre which quickly conquered all of Africa and continues to modernize today. and electrify the continent.
The Rumba Kingsa film by Alain Brain (2021, 94 mins) has its Paris premiere on Sunday February 20 at 2.45 p.m. in the Grande salle

Bakolo Music International

This documentary, which focuses on a group of aging musicians, is certainly the most touching. He follows on tour Bakolo Music International (which means “music pioneers“), the oldest Congolese rumba group still in activity. The founder of the troupe, Wendo Kolosoy, who died in 2008 at the age of 83, had predicted it: the orchestra, which has crisscrossed the stages of the world entire for decades, later would tour again.”The group must never disappear“, he told them. So they try to honor their leader’s prediction by going back to the studios and getting back on the road. It’s not easy. These accomplished musicians, who count their deaths and are no longer only a handful compared to thirty at the start, no longer have the energy of their 20s. They are fragile, and we tremble for them. “The body weakens, but not the spirit“, they assure. Papa Bikunda, a hyper endearing guitarist of almost 80 years old, has a heart that breaks during a stopover in France. We find him on a hospital bed, guitar in hand, improvising a song on this he has just crossed, the sap intact, as on the first day. He could however have contented himself with repeating the words of their catchy hit Philosophy : “One day you’re fine, you’re healthy, you’re happy / One day you’re in pain, it’s general, it’s the hospital…“.
Bakolo Music Internationala film by Tom Vantorre and Benjamin Virré (2021, 86 mins) has its French premiere Saturday February 19, 2022 at 4.15 p.m. in the Auditorium

Rumba Rules, New Genealogies

After the grandfathers of Congolese rumba, here comes the next generation: this film looks at the modern side of the genre with the group Brigade Sarbati. A variable-geometry orchestra that has around thirty members and many dancers in its ranks. We attend very choreographed rehearsals where the swaying of the dancers and the dancer Solar Panel shine, we are in the front row of the concerts, but we spend most of the time behind the scenes, as during this highly contagious little improvisation in the open air between the drummer Ya Mayi and MC Roger Mabele. During studio sessions, friction arises between the upholders of tradition and the younger generation of musicians who want to move the lines. It is not easy to agree when there are so many of us. Everyone is trying to get the leader’s attention, everyone has to fight to keep their place. Differences appear between the members of the group that one approaches more closely, like Xena La Guerriere and Lumumba. There are lengths. And then there is the city. It is not just a backdrop. Of the three films on Congolese rumba, this is the one that immerses us the most in contemporary Kinshasa. The camera wanders through its roaring, chaotic streets and avenues, overflowing with people and stalls, and observes its boiling roundabouts for a long time. A bustling world city where music has always held a special place.
Rumba Rules, New Genealogies by David N. Bernatchez and Sammy Baloji (2020, 1h47) has its French premiere in the presence of Sammy Baloji Friday February 18 at 9:45 p.m. in the Grande salle

The 8th edition of the FAME festival takes place from February 16 to 20, 2022 at La Gaîté Lyrique (Paris)

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