Josephine Baker - Siren of the Tropics
Black Cinema House Autumn 2013 program

The Bridge‘s first night took place at the Black Cinema House of Rebuild Foundation/Dorchester Projects

Aymeric Avice & Benjamin Sanz kicked off the night by performing a live improvised soundtrack to the 1927’s silent film Siren of the Tropics

Available only as a fragment for decades, Siren of the Tropics is Josephine Baker’s feature film debut. Made in 1927, around the time Josephine was making a Paris splash as a Folies Bergère star, Siren establishes the rags to riches, fairy tale template from which her subsequent films would be cut.

Josephine plays Papitou, a free-spirited, animal-loving young woman who falls in love with Andre, a sophisticated young man who has been sent to the Parisian Antilles as a prospector. She is unaware that he is betrothed to another, or that his work assignment is actually a perilous ruse concocted by his scheming boss. As the truth becomes known, Papitou finds herself pursuing Andre back to Paris, where fate intervenes. Will Papitou’s new job as a music hall performer (a natural role for Baker) bring the romantic resolution she so desperately desires?

This performance was as presented as part of The Experimental Sound Series, A Rebuild Foundation program which presents early silent films with live musical accompaniment. The “Experimental Sound Series” is presented with Experimental Sound Studio, a non-profit, artist-run organization focused on sound in all its exploratory cultural manifestations, including music, sound art, installation, cinema, performing arts, sound poetry, broadcast, new media, and more.

The two French musicians were then joined on stage by Chicago musicians and AACM members Mwata Bowden (baritone sax, clarinets) & David Boykin (drums, tenor sax, clarinet, bass clarinet) for an hour-long improvised set.