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<nettime> The Fela Project
Paul D. Miller on Wed, 16 Jul 2003 19:35:53 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> The Fela Project


This is a remix of an essay and art piece written/created for the show based on
Fela Anikalupo-Kuti called "Black President  - the Legacy of Fela Kuti." I took
several records of Tony Allen - who was Fela's drummer and often collaborative
song-arranger, and did a remix based on an architectural manifesto for a new
Kalakuta Republic - the physical aspects are posters created as street
advertisements, and the actual sounds of the project were taken from various
samples of Tony Allen's classic records of "Afrobeat" music over the last 30
years - drum solos, horn riffs etc etc all an architecture of sound and rhythm.


Manifesto for "A Different Utopia: Project for a New Kalakuta Republic 2003"

can be found at:
http://www.djspooky.com/differentutopia.html



A Different Utopia
Project for a New Kalakuta Republic 2003
By Paul D. Miller a.k.a. Dj Spooky that Subliminal Kid 


In a world of constant upheaval and continuous transformation, sometimes we
look to music as a way of escaping the problems of the world. Fela did the
opposite: his music was about immersion in the ebb and flow of the conflicts
that described and circumscribed the nation state he inhabited. His home was
Nigeria, a place of so many contradictions and fictions that it might as well
exist as a story, a fable spun from the fevered imagination of a very strange
storyteller. The name "Nigeria" itself is an inheritance from a colonial past
bequeathed to the confused and angry people who found themselves confined and
defined within its borders after the colonial powers decided what would be the
best route to economic balance between Europe and Africa. As a country, Nigeria
and most of the Sub-Saharan continent were created on maps drawn on a
palindrome of political and economic expedience - all of which did not involve
those who were most relevant to the process: the people who actually lived
there. 

"The Metropolis strives to reach a mythical point where the world is completely
fabricated by man, so that it absolutely coincides with his desires. The
Metropolis is an addictive machine, from which there is no escape, unless it
offers that too...  Through this pervasiveness, its existence has become like
the Nature it has replaced: taken for granted, almost invisible, certainly
indescribeable..." Rem Koolhaas, Delirious New York

In the world of post-colonial Africa, what Fela did was foster a unique
circumstance - he created a utopia. His "Kalakuta Republic" was a way of
producing a space that reflected his desires as an African to build an
independent cultural zone, a place that literally, following the definition of
the term "utopia" didn't exist. The "Kalakuta Republic" was essentially a space
that reflected his values and needs - something all too rare in the post World
War II African political and cultural landscape. It was an artificial place in
the midst of an artificial situation what could be a better metaphor for
contemporary Africa? Place one mirage in front of another and you get a hall of
mirrors, a place where reality comes only by design, and that's a good starting
point to look at the "Kalakuta Republic" By creating a social space bounded by
and founded on African needs, he had to secede from the imaginary space of mass
culture that was called "Nigeria" to create a new story, a new fiction founded
on music, and culture indigenous to the people who lived there. Fictional
spaces and imaginary cities - new forms demand new functions - that's what Fela
told us with his Shrine Project. The logic of the "Kalakuta Republic" flows
from a twisted cross-roads of modernity on the edge of the post-modern: where
other young countries like Brazil would bring in someone like Oscar Niemeyer to
construct a new capital like Brasilia, or Le Corbusier, at Chandigarh, India,
in the 1950's or the United States with Pierre L'Enfant's 1791 design of
Washington D.C., Nigeria, with Fela, was pressed by so many demands in so many
different directions that his new city had to improvise on the spot in response
to a scenario where, to say the least, the people running the government didn't
want a new more dynamic architecture to represent their "new" nation state.
Unlike the European notion of  "Utopia" as a planned and designed place of
Reason and Rationality bequeathed from Thomas Moore, Plato, and Francis Bacon.
Fela's "republic" would be made invi al city blocks. The city Fela found
himself in was a "found-object" to be manipulated and remixed at will, and
essentially, that's what provides the foundation for my investigation into his
concepts of architecture. 

The "A Different Utopia" project imagines a remix of the architecture of Fela's
"Kalakuta Republic" along lines imagined by proportion and ratio - it poses two
different cultures in conflict, and like a dj, it asks them to understand the
rhythms of the different cultures that inspired the structures that Fela
engaged. Thesis, Anti-thesis - Synthesis. "A Different Utopia" is a dialectical
triangulation between the forces of modernity and it's fixed forms, and the
fluid dynamic needs of a critique of post-colonial reason and rationality. The
original "Kalakuta Republic" attempted to secede from Nigeria several times,
and in this day and age when artists like C.M. Von Hausswolf arbitrarily create
nation states with their own passports, and artists collectives routinely
create collective fictions of nation-states, like , well, all I can say is that
art-history has caught up to people like Fela. The philosopher Santayana said
in his 1905, "The Life Of Reason" collection of essays and observations: "Those
who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." A "Different Utopia"
is meant to highlight the linkages between the urge to create your own space
and the world context of living in a highly regulated contemporary information
culture. What happens when you can access different versions of the past, and
sample them? What happens when the culture you live in is dispersed throughout
the globe and you are left to play with the fragments? That's what this project
is about. Diaspora and convergence, reality in the 21st century as a nomadic
flux based on the dynamic interaction of many cultures in the same space -
living, working, and breathing at the same time. Different kinds of reason
imply different modes of thinking about how to exist in an environment that
denies you any and all aspects of "subjectivity." After all ‚ that's what
nation states are about: there are subjects, and there are rulers. What I
propose in "Different Utopia" is a landscape based on Plato's "Republic" the
text is remixed and reconfigure eems, and we're left to our own
devices to actually engage the songs of freedom that Fela made room for in a
post , and now , neo-colonial world


utopia \U*to"pi*a\, n. [NL., fr. Gr. not + ? a place.] 1. An imaginary island,
represented by Sir Thomas More, in a work called Utopia, as enjoying the
greatest perfection in politics, laws, and the like. See Utopia, in the
Dictionary of Noted Names in Fiction.  2. Hence, any place or state of ideal
perfection.  Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary,  1996, 1998
MICRA, Inc.

It was in 1985 that Fela created his "Kalakuta Republic" in which he
essentially christened an autonomous zone where the rule of law in Nigeria was
left at it borders. In essence, what he did was take his idea of a nightclub
and turn it upside down and inside out - there was no invocation of pleasure in
his declaration of independence. As always, Fela was a trickster, and even in
the case of attempting to set up a new country that comprised only several city
blocks, he thought of creating a new relationship between himself, language and
the way he lived in a world governed by rules he felt did not apply to him. He
needed a term to describe the thought process of living in a post-colonial
mentality, and that's what the Shrine and the Republic were about: "It was when
I was in a police cell at the C.I.D. (Central Intelligence Division)
headquarters in Lagos; the cell I was in was named "The Kalakuta Republic" by
the prisoners. I found out when I went to East Africa that "Kalakuta" is a
Swahili word that means "rascal." So, if rascality is going to get us what we
want, we will use it; because we are dealing with corrupt people, we have to be
rascally with them."

In Platos "Republic" all aspects of living in the Utopian City are governed by
rules of proportion and ratio (ratio, of course, being the root word of
"rationality" and the psychological impact of the arts, and contemplation of
forms that are both visible and intelligible - it's the same myth that drove
the making of the film "The Matrix" but its a story that was told several
thousand years ago: shadow and act, phantom and fiction – the future
"Republic" in Plato's story would be governed by people who had seen
past the shadows of an illusion and tried to bring light to people whose
imaginations had been chained. Fela publicized in some of the flyers for the
"New Afrika Shrine" Republic something similar to the "Republic" that Plato had
said so long ago in his "myth of the cave" (Book VII) of the "Republic"  "When
ruling becomes a thing fought over, such a war - a domestic war, one within the
family - destroys these men themselves and the rest of the family. pp199

It's this kind of internecine conflict that led to the destruction of Fela's
compound, and in a way, the digital reconstruction of it that takes place in my
project is a blue-print for a different rhythm, a different ratio - a different
drummer. The "Kalakuta Republic" I imagine is one of pan-humanism based on a
universal architecture of networks and correspondences, it is an environment
based transactions placed in a web of coded languages and vernacular systems.
In our information based economy, we inhabit a world where the structures we
inhabit reflect our desires in so many ways - they are flexible, modular, and
above all else - transitory. Goethe and Schelling said so long ago
"architecture is nothing but frozen music." "A Different Utopia" inverts the
question and asks: what happens when you dethaw the process? It's a project
based on Tony Allen's 1979 record "No Accommodation for Lagos" and incorporates
the afro-rhythms he used for that project to create a map/blueprint of an
"imaginary city" based on the proportions of beats and pulses that the artist
Ghariokwu Osunlila (who designed many of the covers for Fela and Tony Allen's
Afrika 70 collaborations) would imagine - a cartoon universe where sounds of an
imaginary landscape built of ratio and proportion defined the record cover
sleeves to reflect the same concerns George Clinton and Pedro Mayer (the artist
who designed many of the Funkadelic record cover sleeves) an Afro-Futurist
landscape of sonic fiction made to be more real than the "real" that the
musicians invoked with their sounds. As Fela wrote in an advertisement in the
magazine "Punch" in 1979, the Shrine was meant to be a place of new values:
"After a long battle with the authority, we are staging a big comeback at the
new Afrika Shrine... We want the authority, the news media, the public and
everybody concerned to know that Afrika Shrine is NOT A NIGHTCLUB  - it is a
place where we can worship the gods of our ancestors."

He went on to blur the lines between Church and Shrine with a 7 point
description:

a) The Church is an ideological centre for the spreading of European and
American cultural and political awareness
The Shrine is an ideological centre for the spreading of Afrikan cultural and
political awareness.

b) The Church is a place where songs are rendered for worship.  The Shrine is a
place where songs are rendered for worship. 

c) The Church is a place where they collect money.  The Shrine is a place where
we collect money.d) The Church is a place where they drink while worshipping
("holy communion").  The Shrine is a place where we drink
while worshipping. 

e) The Church is a place where they smoke during worship (burning of incense).
The Shrine is a place where we smoke during worship.

f) The Church is a place where they dress the way they like for worship.  The
Shrine is a place where we dress the way we like for worship.

g) The Church is a place where they practice foreign religion.  The Shrine is a
place where we practice Afrikan religion.

Another quotation:  "And finally, in the very last episode, the Tower of Babel
suddenly appears and some strongmen actually finish it under a new song of
hope, and as they complete the top, the Ruler (of the Olympus, probably) runs
off making a fool of himself while Mankind, suddenly understanding everything,
finally takes its rightful place and right away begins its new life with new
insights into everything..." Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Demons

In the here and now, "A Different Utopia" is a bridge between
the visions of reason that held together Europe and Africa, the U.S. and
Nigeria – and proposes a philosophy of rhythm. The text becomes
shareware. The beats and pulses, bass-lines and sounds, they are threads of a
sonic tapestry woven out of desire and dreams. They are vanishing points on the
landscape of the imagination - that's to say that they're points alright, but
they punctuate a different architectural syntax, a place that Rem Koolhas would
call the "culture of congestion" or that Tony Allen would simply call "No
Accommodation." Here, the soundlines and vectors of an invisible social
sculpture become indexical - they're signifiers of meaning at the edge of
understanding. Ratio and rationality, rhyme and reason ‚ these get remixed
again and again. In a "Different Utopia" the Santayana phrase becomes a new
axiom: those who do not understand history remix it to create their own.


============================================================================
"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are
free...." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Port:status>OPEN
wildstyle access: www.djspooky.com

Paul D. Miller a.k.a. Dj Spooky that Subliminal Kid

Office Mailing Address:

Subliminal Kid Inc.
101 W. 23rd St. #2463
New York, NY 10011

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