mendi+keith obadike:: four electric ghosts: an opera-masquerade (mmanwu)


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“Four Electric Ghosts definitely set a new plateau for multimedia work by this generation of AfroFuturist performer-conceptualists . . . What more could we ask for from a night at the theater than Dance Music Sex Romance Mysticism and a newfangled notion of global village literature?” -- Greg Tate, Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber

“[H]auntingly beautiful” -- Conscious Vibration

“My jaw was on the floor.” – Vijay Iyer, Artforum

Inspired by Amos Tutuola's 1954 novel My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and Toru Iwatani's influential 1980s video game Pac Man, Four Electric Ghosts follows the afterlives of four ghosts who separately encounter the same mortal in their journey through the Land of the Dead. The story is told through dance, narration, and original music.

The story begins in the Land of the Living. A wise farmer splits a kola nut into four parts and gives them to her four daughters. She also gives them protective chalk. The daughters plant their protective chalk and each reaps a special gift that they are to use for the good of their community: a powerful axe, a magical quill pen, a miraculous loom, and enchanted bells that can charm any audience. When the sisters later arrive as ghosts in the Land of the Dead, they still carry their gifts. But they decide to venture out and explore the Land of the Dead on their own.

We travel with each sister to a different ghost town, and in each town we learn that the laws, customs, and materials are different from the next. The ghosts find praise, acceptance, love, and fame in the afterlife, but when they forget the true purpose of their gifts, they lose everything they have gained. Each journey is punctuated with songs in the related traditions of funk, rock, and R&B. The story ends with an invitation to join the performers in a final dance.

Four Electric Ghosts was listed in Artforum's the Best of the Year by Vijay Iyer

Buy the forthcoming book from 1913 Press and the forthcoming album from . Four Electric Ghosts was developed at Toni Morrison's Atelier at Princeton and commissioned by the Kitchen in New York.


Concept / Story / Music: Mendi + Keith Obadike

Originally commissioned by The Kithcen
Executive Director Debra Singer
Curated by Rashida Bumbray

Choreography & Stage Direction
Paloma McGregor and Patricia McGregor

Three Singer-Sayers
Mendi Obadike
Latasha Nevada Diggs
Karma Mayet Johnson

First Sister (Red #ff0052), aka Eke: Maria Bauman
Second Sister (Pink #ffbde6), aka Oye: Keisha Turner
Third Sister (Cyan #2bffe6), aka Afor: Marjani Forte
Fourth Sister (Orange #ffba3d), aka Nkwo: Catherine Denecy
Young Mortal (on screen): Paloma McGregor

Radiant Quartet
Drums: Guillermo E. Brown
Piano: Shoko Nagai
Bass: Keith Witty
Guitar: Keith Obadike

Costumes: Kate Cusack
Costume Assistant: Darlene Estremera
Lighting: S. Ryan Schmidt
Video/Animation: Yuki Nakajima
Set: Alex Delaunay

Stage Management
Sylvianna Arndt

Audio Engineer
Charles Coes

Video Projection Operator
Marisa Pappas

Web Streaming Video Crew
Dan Erbeck
Nick Demonte
Dom Chierico

Four Electric Ghosts has been supported by the Amphion Foundation, the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, The Greenwall Foundation, and with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency. Four Electric Ghosts has also received support from Toni Morrison's Atelier at Princeton University