Chi Chi Bunichi

Review in Issue 21-1 | Spring 2009

Is it a gig? Is it a theatre show? Yes, no, maybe! It’s Chi Chi Bunichi, an ensemble of seven artists whose eponymous live performance event resists categorisation.

At the heart of Chi Chi Bunichi is an exploration of ‘dying languages, songs and misremembered memories’. The show takes as its starting point a ‘Ladino’ song; a form of cantata, written in the dying Judea-Hispanic language, that has journeyed through the Balkans, Turkey and Spain for centuries. As reworked by the Chi Chi’s, this musical form has something of the feel of contemporary ‘new acoustic’ bands such as Beirut: a vibrant mix of accordion, trumpet, guitar, harmonium, and melancholy voice.

Chi Chi Bunichi establish a wonderful relationship with their audience. They have us eating out of their hands from the moment we enter the space: literally, as we are given tiny glasses of mint tea and sweet titbits of halva to nibble as we sort ourselves out onto the benches placed in a square. Inside this square, the space becomes a kind of archetypal village square, as stories of love and loss, innocence and experience, are played out in vibrant song and dance, robust physical action, and poignant verbal narration. Some of the best moments are when all the elements come together; for example, a story of a child smuggling sweets ends in an exuberant swirling dance, as the boiled sweets in their jewel-coloured wrappers tumble out from all sorts of hidden places. A magical mystery tour to be enjoyed in the moment, with a sweet aftertaste that lingers long after the last note fades away.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Nov 2008

This article in the magazine

Issue 21-1
p. 31