From 2008-2011, students in the Prague College Graphic Design programmes were asked to create original album cover art work for the Orchestre Rock-A-Mambo, for an assignment dealing with the task designing across cultural contexts. Soukous music was selected in part due to its obscurity and cultural specificity: since few people have heard of African rumba, and since the Orchestre Rock-A-Mambo tracks have never been released outside of original 78rpm records, there is no prevailing idea about what such an album cover should look like. The usual visual clichés associated with Africa are inadequate to properly describe the unique, urban, hybridized dance craze of Congolese mambo.
Students were required to rely on their powers of research and social investigation to develop appropriate and striking visual solutions. This exhibition presents some of the best and most creative designs produced for the assignment, and demonstrates the extent to which graphic design can magnify a specific moment of cultural history and thereby elevate it from relative obscurity.
About the music:
Brazzaville, on the banks of the Congo in central Africa. The local radio station boosts its signal during War years to broadcast popular dance music —including a health dose of Afro-Cuban rhythms — to free French forces fighting in distant parts of the African continent. A taste develops among the local record-buying public for Latin rhythms – idioms that descended centuries earlier from African musical traditions, in part. Musicians in Brazzaville and across the river in Kinshasa blend imported meringue and cha cha cha beats with the local music to create an idiosyncratic blend known as Soukous or African rumba. In 1959, Joseph Kabasele – also known as Le Grand Kalle in deference to his musical stature – leads a all-star selection of members from his Africa Jazz and Franco's OK Jazz big bands into Studio Esengo to launch a new band, Orchestre Rock-A-Mambo.
Opening reception will take place on 26 May 18:00-21:00pm.