The interdisciplinary opera "LÀ-BAS OU ICI ...", a work in progress, is an opera written in French and several other local languages produced by composer Keiko Fujiie in Burkina Faso, West Africa.
Launched in 2019, the project seeks to combine diverse cultures, languages and art forms to create a comprehensive and open work of art.
The title is borrowed from a novel The Dawn of an Aborted Future ... written in French by the Congolese Moyi Mbourangon, who provided the script for this opera. The image was taken by French artist Hervé Humbert. Actors / dancers are about to join the production team led by Keiko Fujiie.
Since careful communication and sufficient time are indispensable for opera production with the successors of traditional African music, who have transmitted music by oral tradition without the existence of sheet music, the completion of all four acts of opera and its performance are scheduled for 2023.
Already, at Goethe Institute in Burkina Faso, the first partial performance took place in December 2020, and in April 2021 the first act will take place at Institut Français.
After completing all four acts, we are aiming to stage performances in various African countries, France, Germany, and Japan.
Composition: Keiko Fujiie
Text: Moyi MBOURANGON
Musicians: Keiko Fujiie, Maboudou Sanou, Ibrahim Dembélé, Boureima Sanou
Artistic visuals: Hervé Humbert
Moyi MBOURANGON, who won first place in the writing competition "Dis-moidix mots" sponsored by the French Congo Institute in 2011, has been active as a rapper for many years. Not finding satisfaction within this artistic form, he sought a new realm of expression and embarked on his first full-length novel. I am making an opera based upon that novel.
Moyi naturally thinks in Lingala -his mother tongue- but writes in French.
In the French-speaking countries of Africa, various local languages are actively spoken, and most people are multilingual rather than bilingual. However, the spread of education is still insufficient, and many people do not understand the official language of Burkina Faso, French.
Moyi's creation, which is extremely sensitive and conscious in this special language environment, is very attractive and alluring; and the following three points are expected to emerge upon making it into an opera.
1. The unique linguistic sense and thinking processes of Africa are expressed in French, opening up a new horizon in the French language.
2. When the original French text is translated into an African language other than Moyi's mother tongue, Lingala, a variant is created from subtle differences found within African ethnic sensations and customs.
3. When these become the lyrics of the opera, they will be united with the expression of music, which transcends language, and we may, in part, be released from the yoke of the verbalization of consciousness, in the process, regaining the original richness of consciousness.
I would also like to add that the content of the novel itself is Moyi's autobiographical work in a way, which is sufficient to stimulate and promote the interest and understanding of European and Japanese people in African society.
In 2019, I met Francis Kéré, a world-famous architect from Burkina Faso, in Germany and heard about Village d'Opera initiated by Austrian director Christoph Schringenzief. Ten years ago, the site complex was built in proximity Ouagadougou, with the dream of creating a new opera, never before seen, through a collaboration between Africa and Europe. It was named Village d'Opera.
However, shortly after the commencement of construction, Shurigenszief passed away, and the opera house, which was planned to be built in the center of the site, seems to have no prospect of its construction being completed.
I told Francis, outside the opera house, that it ougt to be a priority to complete at least one opera, in collaboration with Africans, to be performed at the site - an opera that befits into the African climate, music, and culture as a whole, and suggested to him that it is appropriate to imagine an opera house based on the accumulation of those experiences. Outdoor performances are possible in Burkina Faso's climate.
Francis whole-heartedly agreed with me, and is also very attracted to the idea of producing operas in collaboration with Japan, not being limited to only European interest. We planned to create and perform the first opera in Gando, Francis' home village where, together with the community, he built a school.
That's why I originally visited Burkina Faso in July 2019, visited Gando and the school, and started interacting with people. However, not only because of Covid-19, but also the necessity for myself to learn African traditional music and culture, I began the opera project in the capital city, Ouagadougou, with African traditional music heirs (people called griots) instead of at the school in Gando.
I am now on my third visit to Burkina Faso, having so far stayed for a total of one year and two months. Finally, I can communicate in the local language (Moore). A collaboration with griots is in progress, and on April 23, the first act of the new opera will be announced at the local Institut Français. So far, I've personally financed the making of an album with griots, and played small concerts. Despite a lack of funds and the hardships of the influence of Covid-19, I spend as much time as I can learning from the African people, providing them new elements from myself, and sharing in the joy of creation together.
After all, Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in the world, and I was, at first shocked by the impoverished way people live, but gradually gotten used to it, and even built myself a modest house, a home. Now I am producing opera whilst living life in the same ways as, and side-by-side with the local people.
©Keiko Fujiie (all rights reserved)