Kalakuta Republik at Brighton Dome - Review

Kalakuta Republik. Image by Sophie Garcia
Kalakuta Republik. Image by Sophie Garcia

Kalakuta Republik is a thrilling, accessible and engaging collision of dance and music, which promises, and delivers, ‘Africa without cliches’.

Inspired by the life of Nigerian composer and political activist Fela Kuti, this joyous and intoxicating production electrified Brighton Dome with the spirit of revolution on a short run this week (November 4-5).

Kalakuta Republik. Image by Sophie Garcia

Kalakuta Republik. Image by Sophie Garcia

Created by Belgian-Burkinan choreographer Serge Aimé Coulibaly and featuring an international, largely-African troupe of seven dancers, the Fela Kuti-driven score grabs you instantly with irresistible rhythms and doesn’t let go.

Kuti was the pioneer of Afrobeat, the term given to music which combined West African musical styles and American funk and jazz influences, and the first half of the show is soundtracked by familiar sparkling guitar loops and lashings of horns and organ grooves.

The near-meditative repetition of the insistent sounds works wonderfully with the expressive dance which builds in intensity.

Dancers and visuals (projected onto two patchwork video screens) are monochrome for the first half of the show.

Kalakuta Republik. Image by Sophie Garcia

Kalakuta Republik. Image by Sophie Garcia

Indistinct images of war-ravaged cityscapes present a bird’s-eye view of destruction, the performers lift their shirts to show their midrifts, just as the homes without walls have no cover or protection.

A spellbinding first act gives way to a skulking harmonica, amid a fog of dry ice, sensuality and the rolling light of a glitter ball.

The black and white is burnt away by a body-shaking sensual dance, a spark of red light and a spray of beer.

Arresting athleticism and stunning physicality combine with more confrontational, bruising beats as the music moves closer to the contemporary Afrobeats.

Kalakuta Republik. Image by Sophie Garcia

Kalakuta Republik. Image by Sophie Garcia

There’s sweat and soul all over the stage as a spectacle of frenzied dance, light and white powder (talc presumably) conjures up fire, blood and brimstone. in front of technicolour images of dancing in clubs and blurred city lights.

A vibrant, energetic evocation of Kuti’s music and remarkable life.

By Steve Holloway