World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival

FESTIVAL DANCERS

Fua Dia Congo

Dance Origin: Central Africa
Genre: Traditional Congolese
Artistic Director: Muisi-kongo Malonga
First Appearance in SF EDF: 1982
Email: muisikongo@yahoo.com

In the fourteenth century, from the equatorial forests of Central Africa rose one of Africa's great empires: Kongo. The Kingdom covered present-day northern Angola, parts of Gabon and Central African Republic, the Republic of the Congo, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This region is ancestral homeland for over two hundred ethnic groups, and Fua Dia Congo presents dance, music, and theater from the Congo: forms deeply rooted in religion and ritual.

Fua Dia Congo (Congolese heritage) is a professional repertory company founded by world-renowned Congolese Master Artist, Malonga Casquelourd in 1977 to preserve, promote, and present traditional Central African culture. His children, Musical Director Kiazi Malonga, Artistic Director Muisi-kongo Malonga, and Principal Dancer Lungusu Malonga carry on the legacy as leaders in the preservation and presentation of Congolese traditions.    

2010 PERFORMANCE



Title:
Nzobi
Choreographers:
Kiazi Malonga, Muisi-kongo Malonga, Lungusu Malonga, Latanya d. Tigner
Costume Design:
Ayodele Ankoanda Kinchen, Erika Sosoliso Simpson Dancers: Principal - Ayodele Ankoanda Kinchen, Brandi Howard, Lungusu Malonga, Muisi-kongo Malonga, Erika Sosoliso Simpson; Company - Lia Bascomb, Angelique Holmes, Tamentanefer Lumukanda; Apprentices - Ayoinu Akanbi, Hadiyah Daché, Rasheda Jones, Kamailia Williams
Musicians:
Henry Burton, Kiazi Malonga, Mbay Louvouezo, Rodrigue Tounta
CHOIR:
Cultural Heritage Choir - Rhonda Benin, Tammi Brown, Elouise Burrell, Bryan Dyer, Rico Pabon, Linda Tillery (Artistic Director)
Special Guest Artists:
Sandor Diabankouezi (Master Artist), Latanya d. Tigner (dancer) 

Nzobi highlights the spiritual traditions of the Mbeti people of Congo-Brazzaville and neighboring Gabon, in a staged representation of a traditional practice. Nzobi is the name of the ritual and the secret society that performs it. For the Nzobi sect, spirit and physical worlds are separated by the thinnest of veils, and illness and discord are manifestations of unresolved spiritual matters. Nzobi rituals, fueled by ceremonial music and dance, seek healing, renewal, and protection. Only those initiated into the secret society can fully participate in the rituals, but outsiders often seek out society members to petition on their behalves. 

The dancers wear African fabrics—hand-dyed red to signify spiritual power—and handmade accessories from the Congo. The skirts are painstakingly woven and braided raffia from a rare Congolese plant called mpussu. The dibu ankle rattles' original purpose was to rattle like a snake and give protection while walking. 

Fua’s exciting collaboration with Linda Tillery’s Cultural Heritage Choir was inspired by their shared passion for and ties to African tradition. The choir’s repertoire of African American spirituals honors a traditional source of sacred fortification, empowerment, and protection. Today they sing Congolese ritual music, and those same life-affirming themes reverberate across time and space.

Cultural Heritage Choir is a percussion-driven vocal ensemble that preserves and shares the rich musical traditions of African American music through research and performance. Their music is rooted in the deep south and strongly connected to their West African and Caribbean origins. The group has performed together since 1992 under Artistic Director Linda Tillery and is world-renowned for their breathtaking performances and commitment to the authenticity of African American roots music – music from “involuntary immigrants” from Africa’s western regions. The group’s first collaboration with veteran performers Taj Mahal and Eric Bibb entitled “Shakin’ A Tailfeather,” was nominated for a Grammy in 1997 and their second collaborative effort “Hippity Hop,” was awarded a Parents Choice Award in 2000. CHC’s recording, “Say Yo’ Business” was nominated for a California Music Award. Linda Tillery has shared the stage with America’s best performers and has appeared on more than seventy recordings. She lectures on the history of African American sacred and secular music throughout Canada, Europe, and the U.S. and has been a resident artist at Stanford University and Williams College.

Nzobi features choreography by Artistic Director Muisi-kongo Malonga, whose vision and unique choreographic voice speak to the progression of worlds; innovative Congolese Drum Master Kiazi Malonga; and principal dancer and emerging choreographer, Lungusu Malonga. This dance tradition was introduced to the company by Malonga Casquelourd and Master Artist Sandor Diabankouezi.

2009 PERFORMANCE

TITLE: Kongo-Kintouari
Choreographers:
Chrysogone Diangouaya, Kiazi Malonga, Muisi-kongo Malonga
Dancers:
Kulwa Apara, Lia Bascomb, Angelique Holmes, Brandi Howard, Muisi-kongo Malonga, Rashid Mpugani, Cady Ndounda, Erika Sosoliso Simpson
Musicians:
Ayodele Ankoanda Kinchen (vocals), Laura Borela (vocals), Henry Burton (percussion), Boueta Malonga (percussion), Kiazi Malonga (lead percussion), Karma Smart (vocals)

In recent decades, Central Africa has been ravaged by genocide, bloodshed, and displacement. Kongo-Kintouari links the ancient spelling of Kongo and the word kintouari, a Kikongo word meaning "unity." Fua Dia Congo presents this dance as an artistic call for unification and peace, presenting homage to the beautiful and diverse rhythms and movements from Congolese cultures.  

This choreography highlights the traditions of the BaTeke people of the RC, the DRC, and Gabon, with Obitan: a BaTeke dance and drum ritual performed during celebration and pageantry to honor the king and other esteemed individuals. It also honors the BaBembe ethnic group of the RC, the DRC, and Western Tanzania with a variation of MuPaba, a BaBembe dance and drum celebration marking a successful hunt. 

The dancers wear hand-dyed African fabrics, traditional raffia skirts, beads, and other handmade accessories from the Republic of the Congo. Many costume elements are products of nature: painstakingly woven and braided raffia skirts from a rare Congolese tree and grelos that adorn the ankles—serving as both costume and instrument—also come from a Congolese plant.

Kongo-Kintouari premieres at the Festival and features choreography by Kiazi Malonga, Muisi-kongo Malonga, and Chrysogone Diangouaya. Kiazi Malonga is one of the next generation's most talented and innovative Congolese drum masters. Muisi-kongo Malonga's unique choreographic works and approach to presentation of a classical art form speaks to the progression of worlds, old and new. Chrysogone Diangouaya, originally from the Republic of the Congo, is Founder and Director of Paris-based le Ballet-théâtre Monanaa, a company rooted in traditional and contemporary Congolese dance.

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