Bana Kin: Benedi
By Linda Iriza / Soul Alphabet Dance / 28th May 2019
Soul Alphabet meets Benedi, 1/3 of the congolese dance crew Bana Kin
All throughout the 90’s, the entire Afrikan continent danced to one collective sound. This sound helped many find peace of mind in the middle of political turmoil and it healed people from the economic hardship that was sweeping through different regions of Afrika. This is the sound that birthed many Afrikan “90’s babies” as their parents met on the dance floors of Kinshasa to Lagos to Nairobi to Kigali.
This sound is known as Congolese rumba which later created Congolese Soukous (a fast paced version of congolese rumba). The people of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) created this sound and it is no surprise that it became Afrika’s pop music as it was quiet literally coming from the heart Afrika. To comprehend it’s popularity back then you can look at today’s current wave of Afrobeats, which is slowly taking over the world. The level of influence that Afrobeats has at the moment is a representation of the hype that existed around Congolese Soukous at its very early stages in the 60’s. By the 90’s, the music had been disrupted all across the continent and the world. The sound was able to move across borders smoothly because most of the songs were sang in Lingala (a widely spoken bantu language) and French.
Today, If you were to play a Mbilia Bel or Papa Wemba or Koffi Olamide song to an African aunty or uncle, you would see their faces light up and they will spark up a conversation about how much they danced in their youth. Today, artists like Fally Ipupa (whom everyone is highkey in love with) are continuing to push the sound to new heights. However, one can cannot speak about Congolese music without speaking about congolese dances.
There’s many dances that are attached to Congolese Soukous, Rumba and zouk, for the sake of keeping this article “short and concise” so you don’t loose attention we will focus on one dance, the Mutuashi dance.
The first time we, Soul Alphabet, got introduced to the Mutuashi dance was through watching Benedi Mpinda aka Congolese Barbie’s dance performance at the Sauti Sol concert in 2018. Prior to the Sauti Sol crew coming on stage, the entire energy of the room was changed by Benedi and her dance crew Bana Kin. Everyone was suddenly fixated on the movements of each crew member and in a matter of 60 seconds the entire crowd was dancing along.
Benedi is a 20 year old Perth based Congolese dancer who feels liberated through dance and more specifically dancing to the sounds that have been a part of her lineage for decades. Watching her perform traditional dances such as the Mutuashi is breathtaking. Even if you were to only watch 30 seconds of her performance you would be time travelling and witnessing decades of rituals that are unique to regions in the heart of Afrika. As mentioned, when she dances the mutuashi dance the audience is being transported to a ritual practised by the Luba people of the Southern part of the DRC and this ritual signifies the celebration of the birth of a child.
For the past years in the media or even in our communities, dances that are performed in Congolese music videos have been called “provocative” or “too sexual” and other words along those lines have been used to describe it. These perceptions are not just wrong but they are damaging. As almost all the movements performed in these videos are attached to a specific ritual that celebrates an aspect of humanity. Additionally, congolese dances have reminded people to be comfortable with their sexuality and not to conform to societal norms that place men and women into seperate boxes. As, dance is simply an expression that is attached to the rhythm of drum beats and guitar solos and that is exactly what these dances have taught the rest of the world.
Another quick fact is that the 59th Independence Day of the DRC is coming up soon and the whole world should be celebrating the heart of Afrika as it’s people, music and culture influenced us in the most positive way. The Perth Independence celebration event is on the 29th of June, get your tickets via eventbrite.