Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

6 February 2013

Tanzania: Film About Africans Playing Beethoven Is Real

JUST the thought of ordinary people in an African city coming together to play classical European music, stretches one's imagination.

So hearing of the 90-minute 2010 documentary film, "Kinshasa Symphony" by Germans Claus Wischmann and Martin Baer was being screened at the Goethe Institut, last Thursday evening awakened an interest in the 'Daily News' to find out more about it. Well it left the local audience "refreshed" when looking for one word to sum-up views expressed by the audience after the screening.

The actual film shows how ordinary people, living in one of the most chaotic cities in the world have managed to forge one of the most complex systems of human cooperation ever invented: a symphony orchestra. These are the musicians and vocalists of the "Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste" in Kinshasa, who describe themselves, as the only "black" symphony orchestra.

Please to remember that they are all amateurs, who attend rehearsals after a hard day's work and, finally, give a captivating concert in their capital. This film certainly shows how music can influence and change lives. Or, as one of the choir member's states:

"When I sing Beethoven, I'm in a different world, I'm entirely myself." No wonder that among numerous other awards, it won the "Most Popular Documentary Film" at the Vancouver International Film Festival 2010 and another in gold for "Best Documentary" at the German Film Awards 2011.

Now concerning the screening last Thursday under Dar's skies, law student Elizueus Binamungu thought the film related to the African context of life, which was reflected in the way people sang and dressed. He found the story enjoyable, although the English subtitles at the bottom of the screen were difficult to follow.

His colleague, Fortunata Kanynabo says she likes singing so when she heard about the screening, she thought it worth finding out a little more. She was happy with what she saw, seeing the characters enjoying their singing and practicing. She left the venue having received a dose of why people should always strive to be happy, irrespective of how difficult they find life to be.

Having problems following the English subtitles did not change this either but not being conversant in French, she would have preferred if the production was dubbed in English. Grade Four teacher at the International School of Tanganyika Karen Naiman heard about the screening from the Dar Choral Society, where she sings soprano, so she came to see for herself what actually took place in it.

"I think it's very refreshing to see how people with so little can enjoy their life so much and be so inventive and positive, despite the fact that they live in fairly difficult surroundings. It was also good to see how they worked together so fantastically. On the night when they performed they looked fantastic," Naiman explained.

This, she added, reminded her of the lift they, in the Dar Choral Society, got when they finished performing the Halleluiah Chorus and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony here in the City recently. She told the 'Daily News' that the feeling becomes extra just from their realisation that they played together under the direction of a local conductor, Raymond Takima.

She left the venue on Thursday with a strong awareness that "where there is a will there is a way". One of her colleagues from South Africa, Fezekile Kuzuwayo, a Grade Two teacher at the Dar es Salaam International Academy said the film is, "amazing, inspiring and beautiful".

For her the magic was because of there being everyday ordinary people, some of whom had no musical background and never thought they would be producing "such beautiful sounds with instruments and their voices" actually doing it, which turned out to be amazing.

She also made reference to how the musicians in the film captured the audience both within the film and those at the screening, who clapped after the performances on screen, as if they were live shows. She also liked the way the director followed the stories of a few members of the orchestra, which gave the film a lot more depth. She thinks it was worth showing to a local audience for a number of reasons.

"First of all, as an African and also someone in Tanzania, having lived here for a while, we need an education around music and about different types of music. Off-course I appreciate our own African music and traditions but I think this is something different and it's really good to understand it and even perform it," Kuzuwayo said. Dar es Salaam-based filmmaker Deepesh Shapriya, thought the film inspirational for him to come there and soak into other people's works after having spent the entire day editing his last documentary.

One of the main purposes he feels film should serve is to show him a world that he does not know, and that purpose he says was totally fulfilled with this film documentary. Local cartoonist of the "Kingo" strips cum film producer, James Gayo, who simply refers to himself as a "story teller" was also present. He makes it a duty to come whenever possible to see these "art forms that are otherwise not available anywhere else in the country".

It is "like a window", he says, to what is happening elsewhere, which he believes is very important. He admired the ability displayed by the people in the film to capture the feeling of those classic pieces and play them in the manner they did. He found the movie to be very cinematic and could see that a lot of energy went into it. The images and locations, for him, became part of the story.

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