In a captivating blend of cultural heritage and contemporary urban flair, a company in Ivory Coast unveils its rendition of the renowned German cantata, “Carmina Burana” by Carl Orff, on December 15, 2023. The adaptation, titled “Akan Story,” intricately weaves together the realms of Akan royalty and the urban rhythms of coupé-décalé. Our journey takes us behind the scenes, delving into the rehearsals at the National Institute of Arts and Cultural Action (Insaac).
While the melody of “Carmina Burana” is instantly recognizable, the accompanying lyrics take on a distinctive character as Ivorian performers sing in Akan languages (Baoulé, Agni, Abouré), interspersed with moments in French.
Mambo Alexandre Wilfried Ahoua assumes the pivotal role of a flawed king experiencing both downfall and redemption. He shares insights into his character: “In a kingdom, there is a king who acts recklessly simply because he is the king. The people rebel, and he is dethroned, and rejected by all… After reflection, a quest begins to bring the king back to reason. It’s truly a challenging role, requiring one to embody a fallen, rejected king who eventually regains the throne.”
This modern and Ivorian reinterpretation of the classical 1935 cantata navigates the intersection of genres, as explained by choreographer Nikoko Yao: “It’s a complete mix, encompassing music and movements. I am fortunate to work with dancers who possess foundations in classical and modern jazz dance, as well as those skilled in traditional dances. The creative process begins with the exploration of movements. The costumes, too, reflect this fusion – traditional woven fabrics from the Akan culture, and in the second part, the king finds himself in an urban setting. The musical composition blends classical and coupé-décalé, influencing the vibrant and extravagant costumes.”
“Akan Story” stands as a testament to the dynamic synthesis of tradition and innovation, offering audiences a visual and auditory feast that transcends temporal and cultural boundaries.