Films

Gangbé!

Arnaud Robert
2015 | 58 mins
Country of Production: Switzerland
Countries Featured: Benin, Nigeria
US Premiere 
Saturday, October 15 | 8:30 pm | Program F12

Benin’s Gangbé Brass Band have been touring the world for 15 years, bringing their effervescent, high-energy brand of Afrobeat to audiences of all sizes and colors. But when they’re offered the opportunity to perform with Femi Kuti at New Afrika Shrine—a legendary club in Lagos—the Gangbé Brass Band seized the once-in-a-lifetime experience. The film follows their spiritual journey to the homeland of Afrobeat, where they perform, encounter their hero Kuti, and reconnect with friends and relatives. Through this experience they engage with the ideals of contemporary pan-Africanism and find themselves rejuvenated and immersed in a world of new ideas. Gangbé! is a story of a new and confident Africa, one that no longer aspires to the European dream, told through the lens of rhythm and musical fervor.

Co-presented by the Consulate General of Switzerland in New York and the African Film Festival New York

Re:Frame, My Perspective

“I met Gangbé Brass Band more than 15 years ago while they were touring in Europe. I fell in love with their music since it seems to me they had digested a lot of West African music, but also jazz, Latin American rhythms and funk. They had already travelled all over the world, but the biggest fascination they had was for Fela Anikulapo Kuti, his afrobeat sound and the city of Lagos. For years, I met Gangbé in many places: Port-au-Prince, New York, Montreal, Paris, Geneva, etc. And I visited them several times in Benin. I was really interested in the love they had for Nigerian music and I thought it would be a good idea to film them travelling to the Shrine, the club in Lagos Fela Kuti had created. Since Africa is often described as one big country, a coherent whole, I felt it was about time to show through Beninese eyes that Nigeria (which is a neighbor country) is still a foreign world to them. Lagos, for Gangbé Brass Band, is a kingdom of otherness and attraction even if it’s only 5 hours away from their hometown Cotonou. I think the documentary we made is really my vision of their experience and I have no problem to admit it doesn’t encapsulate in every ways their journey, it was really important for me to spend as much time as possible with the band in the last 15 years without filming, without any agenda, to understand a bit of what their life and dreams were about. “Gangbé!” is in definitive a film about encountering the other. Benin facing Nigeria. A Swiss filmmaker facing West African artists. When I heard the first time the band talking in public about the film, mentioning things they saw that I had never consciously put in, I understood that my framing of their reality left enough space for them to blow their horns. And I like it.”

—Arnaud Robert | Director, Gangbé!