Beny Kiesse describes himself as a producer, singer, dancer, designer, illustrator and model. Recently, he's earned another title: community organizer.
On Saturday, May 12, Kiesse will perform alongside his brother Rodrick and other local artists at the Social Club & Lounge in Burlington for an event that he's dubbed "International Affairs Night."
"Many of the performers are talented but don't have any support," explained Beny, whose stage name is BenyGola. He said it took him about a month to organize the event, which will include performances by A2VT and Cadoux Fancy. "The sole purpose of this show," he continued, "is to show everyone that we, indeed, have undiscovered talents within the city."
The Kiesse brothers, both in their early twenties, were born and raised in the Republic of Congo, or Congo-Brazzaville. Before they moved to Vermont in 2010, they were part of a group called PGT, or groupement des garçon talentueux.
Courtesy of Beny Kiesse
Congolese Brothers Music
The band's preferred genre was coupé-décalé — dance music that features continuous and repetitive beats. They also performed comedy skits, said Rodrick, whose stage name is F-Mpouki.
Though the brothers now live in Vermont, they haven't forgotten their roots. Each month, they send about $60 to their former bandmates in the Republic of Congo. Half the money helps the performers buy food and clothes and travel to shows; the other half, the brothers said, helps the homeless in their native country.
"Whatever we spend a day for food here," said Beny, "could help somebody [there] for a week, two weeks probably."
"When you get something, you have to help people, too," added Rodrick, who works as a chef.
In Vermont, Beny and Rodrick perform as Congolese Brothers Music. Beny composes their songs and rhythms, and both choreograph their dances. They perform coupé-décalé, said Beny, infused with some Afro-trap and Afrobeat.
The Kiesse brothers aren't content with performing in front of audiences. They also want to teach people how to dance, including salsa and kizomba. "We already have a crew," said Beny, "I am about to talk to schools."
And he' not stopping there, said Beny. He hopes to build a recording studio where youths can make their own music for free. "I see a lot of kids with depression," he said, "and music is something that could help them. I've been through that ... Music changed my life."
Cultural Mosaic is a series about performing artists in Vermont from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Got an artist we should know about? Let us know!