Live Reports

Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul’s big party at the Ancienne Belgique

On 2 December, fans from every corner of Belgium travelled to Brussels to attend Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul’s specially programmed Saturday night at the Ancienne Belgique. Aside from putting on a flawless live show and dj-set, the Ghent-based pair also invited some of their talented friends from the Belgian and UK underground scene. A combo that kept us on our feet till the morning hours.

Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul // Camille Vivier 2022

Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul have been dubbed “a match made in heaven” by many music critics. Of Martiniquan and Guadeloupean descent, Charlotte is a sharp and witty songwriter, quick at denouncing misogyny, racism and generalized hypocrisy. Bolis (i.e. a wink at how his Chinese grandmother pronounces his first name Boris) is a talented beatmaker who grew up among his dad’s instruments. Bolis’ father is famous cartoonist Kamagurka, who, back in the 90s, collaborated with Stephen Dewaele (half of Belgian electro duo Soulwax) on Flemish tv-series Bob & George. As a result of this collaboration, Dewaele would regularly come to Bolis’ house, which is how he discovered his talents. And indeed, it is no one else than Soulwax who finally made the heavenly match between Charlotte and Bolis and became their musical mentors.

A few years later, Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul released Topical Dancer (2022) via Soulwax’s label DEEWEE, a vigorously unique album which skyrocketed them to world fame and sent them touring sold out venues across Europe. Topical Dancer holds its name perfectly, covering topics like post-colonialism, social media vanity, and political correctness on some highly danceable beats. Through this unique work, Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul managed to create music that calls out for freedom from hypocrisy and divisiveness. Tonight, this dancing freedom would all come to life in a sold out AB.

Politically dancing with Céline Gillain

Céline Gillain @ Ancienne Belgique // Daria Miasoedova for Ancienne Belgique

The night starts with a hot warm-up by Brussels-based artist Céline Gillain. This Bad Woman (as her debut LP is called) works across artistic fields, mingling deviant pop and electronic music with the visual and performing arts. Her latest LP, Mind Is Mud (released in June 2023) is a piece of experimental pop influenced by techno and early rave culture. Unique about the LP are the politically laden lyrics sung in polyphony on a background of underground techno beats. And indeed, if there’s one thing to learn from Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul’s friends, is that everything’s political – and dancing all the more. An inspiring lesson that the audience seems to have gotten from the start of Céline Gillain’s set.

Charlotte & Bolis – perfectly choreographed visionaires

Almost too punctual for the traditional refill, Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul strike us with their fierce presence at the centre of the stage. Their outfits ooze passion and drama – Charlotte is wearing a towering red hat and a translucent leotard while Bolis rocks a loosely smart black suit with red leather gloves on his wrists. The duo correctly spotted that the audience is coming from all over Belgium: Bolis and Charlotte both express their gratitude, but in Flemish and French respectively.

Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul @ Ancienne Belgique // Daria Miasoedova for Ancienne Belgique

If there’s one thing to be remembered from Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul’s show, it’s its flawless choreography. On “Ich Mwen”, Charlotte carefully picks someone from the audience to dance on stage, and even he seems to have practised his dance moves to the slightest detail. He and Charlotte sway around the stage like experienced ballroom dancers from the 90s NYC Vogue scene. When Bolis starts playing the intro to “Reappropriate”, Charlotte notices how people’s faces lighten up. She says it’s one of the more personal songs of the album – one about reconnecting with your feminine power and sexuality after disconnected times. It’s also the most sensual one, and one can feel the sexual energy sweeping through the audience, urging us to forget about our own self-consciousness.

A lovely invitation and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

This provides a perfect context for the next phase of Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul’s show. The duo invite the audience (including Charlotte’s sister) to come dance on stage. The pit slowly empties itself, and a stream of around 50 excited fans flows up the stage and starts swaying. From the pit, watching all these colourful bodies move together on “It Hit Me” feels like witnessing a biblical celebration. The scene almost seems like one of those Renaissance paintings in which devoted followers, dressed in the brightest colours, celebrate their worshiped figures in awe. People are frantic in unison, strangers looking each other in the eyes, knowing they’re all here for the same reason – the sparkling thrill of freedom.

Celebrating freedom @ Ancienne Belgique // Daria Miasoedova for Ancienne Belgique

It’s an epiphany for most of us, and a springboard for the rest of the eclectic night. After Lilihell’s groovy passage on stage, Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul satisfy all our needs with a DJ-set, playing unmissable electronic tracks like Bjarki’s “I Wanna Go Bang” and Paranoid London’s “Eating Glue“. The pair make it impossible to leave the premises, we’re simply too hooked not to let ourselves go until the late hours. Upstairs, London-based underground techno artist Nkisi fires off some upbeat bass tracks from her EP The Dark Orchestra (2019) – satisfying the more hardcore fans among us.

As Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul’s special evening comes to an end, I can’t imagine anyone leaving the Ancienne Belgique without some sense of thrill and renewed energy. The pair proved they could not only entertain an audience by making music in various forms, performing for and with us – they also managed to pass on what music should all make us feel like, connected to ourselves, united with the Other and free from any sense of judgment or conformity.

Setlist: Hey, 1,618, Blenda, High Lights, Reappropriate, Ich Mwen, Making Sense Stop, Paténipat, HAHA, It Hit Me, Mantra, Ceci n’est pas un cliché, Thank You, Encore: Bear With Me (And I’ll Stand Bare With You).

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