Kinshasa the capital of Democratic Republic of Congo is no ordinary city and at first seems an unlikely place to have an orchestra of two hundred musicians playing to Beethoven Ninth –Freude schöner Götterfunken. “Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste” is the only symphony orchestra in the Congo has been in existence for 15 yrs. Riddled often with power strikes, even on performance nights, seems the least of the worries of this symphony. Kinshasa Symphony directed by Martin Baer, Claus Wischmann is a study of people in one of the world’s most chaotic cities doing their best to maintain one of the most complex systems of joint human endeavour: a symphony. The film is about the Congo, the people in Kinshasa and the power of music.
The film closely follows a few of the band members and gives a view of their personal lives, how they make a living and struggle to make it to almost daily practices. We get to see the symphony overcome odds as they prepare for an open concert with thousands attending.
The DRC does not stop with these classical musicians all self taught amateurs or trained by other musicians unfamiliar in classical training with instruments like the cello, cello bass or violin. Kinshasa continues to stand out with its remarkable musicians forming this indie breed of rudimentary collectives that play with scrap yard instruments yet seem to stand on stages from Brooklyn to Paris. Other bands I should make note of are : Konono Nº1 who collaborated with Bjork on the song earth intruders and more recently with Herbie Hancock and Baloji. Also take note of Kasai All Stars.
Kinshasa Symphony has made its rounds in the theatre circuit and is available on DVD. Its playing as part of the featured screenings next week, in New York’s College music festival CMJ.