Patsha Bay Mukuna is a Congo-born singer and star of the Kinshasa-set film, Viva Riva!. He was selected by director, Djo Tunda Wa Munga to play the physically-demanding role of small-time Congolese gangster, Riva, despite Mukuna having no screen acting experience. The film opens with Riva returning home to the capital of Congo after a decade away — rolling in with a truckload of hijacked gasoline that’s worth a fortune, since Kinshasa is out of fuel — but closely pursued by his old Angolan gang that he stole the gas from. A few weeks after Viva Riva! dominated the 7th Annual African Movie Academy Awards in Nigeria — winning Best Picture — Mukuna and co-star Hoji Fortuna (AMAA Best Supporting Actor winner for the Angolan gang’s vicious leader, Cesar) presented a special screening of Viva Riva! at Lincoln Center as part of the 18th New York African Film Festival. Ahead of the film’s upcoming official New York City premiere, Camera In The Sun filmed an interview with Mukuna at The Film Society of Lincoln Center. We discussed the making of Viva Riva!, Kinshasa’s nightlife culture and the critical role of diaspora Congolese artists in growing that country’s film and music industries.
What is your music like, and could you make a career within Congo’s music and film industries?
I had influences from many countries, and I think that my music is not really a traditional typical African music. I used to do R&B, pop, you see just because when I grew up that was the music I was listening to. It was just R&B, pop, soul music and a little bit of rock. But actually, I’m trying to mix in some African sonorances inside, then I can have the Afrobeat pop. Yeah so, I think it’s just something exceptional. I hope that one day people will have the chance to listen to me as a musician as well.
I love my country. That’s why I used to be there, and to do some stuff there, because I want the culture of my country to go all over the world. But I think that the future for the music industry is up to people like us. If we come in Europe or in U.S.A., we try to make big names, and then go back in the country, try to create some music industries. That’s gonna be the future of the music industry in Congo. But actually there’s no industry, so I prefer to do my music in Europe or here in U.S.A., and that will be good for me, because I can earn some money. Because you know it’s not easy to earn money in Congo, because there’s no industry. So, I think that if I have the chance to release some stuff here in U.S.A., or over in Europe, and got success with that, I should come back in the country to make some music industry and insure that the future of music will be safe in Africa as well.
Twenty years ago there was a movie called La Vie Est Belle [Life is Rosy]. That was a great movie. And it was just like a chance to start a real cinema in Congo. But I don’t know why it just stopped. And the film was a great film. It was shot with a musician as well. And his name is Papa Wemba. He’s one of the greatest in Congo actually. So I don’t know, maybe Viva Riva! is just a remix of the La Vie Est Belle, because I’m a singer, but I think this time we’re just gonna go forever.
How has traveling as a musician affected your worldview?
I grew up in Congo, but I used to travel in some other African countries, so I think that I got culture from many countries in Africa. But I grew up in Congo, and my father used to be a teacher, so he went to many places in the country, and I used to travel with him in the country, so that’s why I think that my culture is more African and mixing cultures. After I started with the music, I had some travels in Europe, in Asia, and this is my first time in America and New York actually. It’s not for music, but it’s for the movie, which I think is just the same. You know, movies, music, it’s just the same business.