Rhythm & Memory

Rhythm & Memory is an encounter between two women, connected by the rhythm of Congo. Huguette Tolingas and Laura Robles meet for a jam session in Berlin, after connecting across borders and through music.

When Huguette Tolingas first heard Laura Robles drums, she felt an immediate deep connection, even though she merely saw Lauras performance on screen. The rhythm she played was reminiscent of the sounds travelling through the streets and houses of her home town near Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo.


When the two women met at the Laboratoire Kontempo in Berlin, it became obvious how spoken language falls short when compared to rhythm and music. Despite their language differences, they communicated with ease, tuning their bodies to listen, feel and to be together.


Rhythm & Memory is part of the audiovisual music project curated by Miguel Buenrostos to promote transcultural exchange. It is the second installment after La Fortaleza.

How Miguel called Rhythm & Memory into existence

In the summer of 2020, my colleague Nikolás Kisic Aguirre and I had the opportunity to record a series of free improvisation sessions with Peruvian percussionist Laura Robles, as well as musicians Tom Kessler and Gustavo Obligado. These sessions were part of a Berlin based artistic residency program I participated in called Hier und jetzt connections. Invited musicians from various diasporas came toghether to live in the city and reflect on the environment and natural surroundings of the BLO-ateliers site in Lichtenberg. During our improvisations, we incorporated the sounds of our environment, such as birdsongs, the rustling of leaves and even the passing trains next to the site.


The outcome of these performances was a film called 'Música para tercer paisaje,'. It was showcased one year later at the exhibition Laboratoire Kontempo at The National Museum of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the vibrant city of Kinshasa. During the presentation of the film, we engaged in discussions about our understanding of improvisation, our approach to listening, and the unique process of communicating through rhythm, particularly in relation to a world greater than humans.

Later that day, Huguette Tolinga approached me. She is a percussionist and told me, that the rhythms played in the film resonated deeply with her because they were reminiscent of the sounds of her hometown outside of Kinshasa. She shared the traditions of her town, explaining how rhythms had expanded into other territories over time and how they were intricately tied to bodily practices, rituals, celebrations, and festivities. I was fascinated by her life story. After the exhibition, and on my immediate return to Berlin, I shared this experience with Laura Robles, how performed in the film. I explained how her music had struck a chord with Huguettes cultural heritage.


This synchronicity served as the impetus for our new mutual project. I had recorded footage, with different musicians in Kinshasa that could be accompanied by a discussion and a jam session between two women who had never met before. My proposal for the Berlin edition of “Miziki” part of the Laboratoire Kontempo music program curated by Lydia Schellhammer, Chris Mukenge and myself aimed to explore the nature of music as a carrier of travel, migration, and the social and political implications of its expansion into different territories. Rather than simply projecting the video in a sterile gallery setting, I wanted to foster a dialogue by placing the video material in conversation. The primary focus of the program was to create a space for gathering and listening, challenging the categorization of "world" music often constrained by established norms. Afro-Peruvian rhythms combined with traditional Congolese rhythms from the 60s and 70s and an open exchange of musical knowledge lead into a collaboration between two remarkable musicians who embraced each other's sounds.

The concert was recorded on June 5, 2022 at Sinema Transtopia in Berlin.

Participating artists

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