MERCURY 08 Jul 2010, Page 15
Classical Notes WILLIAM CHARLTON-PERKINS
OF SPECIAL interest to readers of this column, Kinshasa Symphony is a stand-out title among the 29 remarkable documentaries that wifi be up for viewingwith a host of cuttingedge feature films and shorts at the 31st Durban International Film Festival, to be held between July22 and August 1.
According to the festival's taformation handout, this uplifting film "shows how people living in one of the most chaotic cities in the world have managed to forge one of the most complex systems of human co-operation ever invented: a symphony orchestra".
It certainly makes for inspiring viewing. Among the people guiding us through the teeming hub of Kinshasa are salesgirl Chantla Ikina, electrician and hairdresser Joseph Lutete, artisan Albert Matubenza and preacher Armand Diangienda.
What they, and others like them, have in common is theft love of music - and a phenomenal degree of determination and resourcefulness in making it happen against material odds, some even crafting theft own instruments with precision and savvy As we follow the orchestra's collective music-making, theft rehearsals and their concerts, a stimning picture of Kinshasa in all its diversity, speed, colour and vitality emerges.
In a series of engagingly captured personal vignettes of several of the players, we encounter each of them coping with the tough realities of theft. central African urban existence, dividing theft time between diverse and practical ways of making ends meet, and fmding solace in making music together.
From a seasoned western concert-goer's perspective, it has to be said that hearing them in action is something of a mixed blessing.
All too often cacophony prevails over endeavour and good intentions. But when on form, these people make heartstuppingly beautiful music.
Hear their rendering, during a rehearsal on a dusty inner-city soccer field, of Va pensiero, the ubiquitous Slaveb Chorus from Verdi's Nabucco, and you weep for joy Ditto the experience of listening to the tenderly dethvered choral arrangement of another classical chestnut, Oirn brat maifu - widely known as Handel's Largo.
And not content simply to dabble in isolated concert lolilipops such as these, they reach for the skies, tackling the mighty slopes of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, no less.
These players are heroes, one and all. They know the power of great music to transport souls to higher places than the grind of day-to-day existence in poverty-stricken circumstances.
The subject matter is put across without a vestige of sentimentality through deft amd unfailingly creative camera lenses, as seen through the eyes of master filmmakers Claus Wischmann and Martin Baer.
Screenings of this memorable film are at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre at 11am on July26 and 6pJm on July27.
Durban International Film Festival booklets (with screening schedules and film synopses) are available free at cinemas, Computicket, other outlets, and online at www.cca.ukzn.ac.za.
Call 031 260 2506 or 031 260 1650 for further details.
Congolese tuba player Papy Nktuzeyi (also a mechanic and pharmacy owner) practises outside his shop in Kinshasa. Below, Nathalie Bahati, a flautist in Kinshasa's Symphony Orchestra, practises during a rehearsal break.