Perfectly poised between the secular and the spiritual, Holy Smoke is a live experience that slowly takes over you, a pop shamanic spell like no other. Holy Smoke is ritual, magic and subtle critique, enchanting and amusing, drenched in scales and incantations.
Bringing together a team of arts practitioners, including percussionist and visual artist Fritz Welch, musician Jer Reid, and shamanist and performer Divina Kniest, Ultimate Dancer (choreographer Louise Ahl) pieces together a work examining the aesthetics, rituals and sonic journeys of shamanism in and through the body. Clad in robes and donning impressive headgear whilst plastering the space with smoke and releasing scrolls of text, Holy Smoke moves between humour and seriousness, between concept and exploration. It’s drenched in atmosphere, full of power, and glides between voice and body, sound and dissonance.
It also constructs a geometry of movement and sculpture, of bodies being elsewhere, of bodies recalling bodies, in a sonic architecture that slowly drowns out the everyday. You’d be fooled to think this is psychedelic nostalgia as Holy Smoke is an intelligent, embodied examination of processes of healing, of magic and sound, that probes our problematic cultural engagements with these rituals as much as their necessity, and their return to the body.
Holy Smoke invades difficult territory, asking questions about appropriation, fetishisation and commitment, as much as engaging with languages ancient and contemporary that sit at the crossroads of healing practices. It’s sonic dissonance, with language emerging in increments, between song and rhythm, movement and ritual. At times, recognisable pop music comes through (‘must be talking to an angel’), and at others, we experience rituals of elsewhere, at a distance and in proximity.
Holy Smoke was on at the Southbank Centre. Click here for more details.