Lucky Lartey is a Ghanaian dancer and choreographer who’s been based in Sydney for close to a decade.
He’ll be performing the solo work, ‘Full Circle’, at Riverside Theatres, Parramatta. It’s part of the 'Passing It On' double bill, which also features ‘How I Practice My Religion’ from Australian-Japanese dancer, Ryuichi Fujimura.
‘Full Circle’ explores the relationship between hip hop culture and West African storytelling traditions.
“I’ve always been inspired by rap itself, the power of storytelling, and how rap was used as a surviving tool,” Lucky says. “Storytelling is something that has been in our culture for a long time. It’s also one of the ways that we learn about who we are, the environment that we grow up in, and very basic things that we learn through songs, rhymes, and storytelling. So I wanted to explore that relationship.”
Ghana is famed for highlife music, which combines West African folk music with Western instrumentation, placing heavy emphasis on horns and guitar. During his teens, Lucky witnessed the growth of a new musical form in Ghana.
“I saw the music in Ghana change because of rap influence,” he says. “A lot of youths were interested in rap, so they married highlife with rap influence in local language and highlife became hiplife. That was my first introduction to rap.”
‘Full Circle’ takes its name from Lucky’s fascination at how rap music – which was conceived by African Americans – not only embraced African storytelling traditions, but eventually travelled back to the continent and impacted the sound of African music.
“What was really interesting for me is how this idea of storytelling was used in a different place at a different time by African diaspora,” he says. “So for me I saw there was a link there. Even though they might be sixth/seventh generation of African diaspora, they have this idea of storytelling that was used in a very different way at a different time with a different language to serve a different purpose. That was my inspiration and so I wanted to explore deeper to make a connection between these two different practices.”
Lucky will incorporate hip hop movement along with African drums, folk tales and prayers to communicate the central narrative of ‘Full Circle’.
“Drum language is one of the ways that oral tradition has been passed down as well,” he says. “Often we have coded words on drums, so we learn this drum language and they hold a lot of knowledge of the community. I’m using a talking drum, which mimics human voice. I’m also using rhymes, old folk tale rhymes, and I’m also using some old traditional prayers.
“It’s more looking at how I can use dance to make this connection, but it’s got beat box, it’s got scratching, it’s got all of the other elements, but the focus is on how do I use them to communicate this idea.”
Lucky hasn’t used hip hop in his choreographies before, but he says ‘Full Circle’ is a continuation of his earlier work.
“In my previous work it’s always been about looking at social issues, and looking at the connection between Africa and my new life here in Australia. I’ve also looked at marrying words with movement, but really the hip hop version is a new thing I’m exploring.”
The 'Passing It On' double bill is on at Riverside Theatres from 6-8 June.