Njinga: The Queen King

Pauline Oliveros & IONE

mode 220

DVD Video

(Region 0, NTSC)    



Mode Records - A Record Label Devoted to New Music

NJINGA: THE QUEEN KING The Return of a Warrior

A Play with Music and Pageantry

Written and Directed by IONE Original music and Sound by Pauline Oliveros Traditional Congolese Music by Titos Sompa Set and Costume Design by Valerie Maynard Dance and Movement by Carol Chappell, Nego Gato, Biza Sompa and Titos Sompa Traditional Brazilian Music and Dance by Nego Gato

Njinga the Queen King is a collaborative effort between writer/director Ione and composer Pauline Oliveros, which they refer to as “a play with music and pageantry.” It is based on historical facts.


This fully staged “pageantry” with a large cast weaves the plot around singing, acting, music — including ethnic music and percussion, electronics and dance.


Njinga ruled 17th century Ndongo — now Angola — as a “king” because tribal custom forbade her to rule as a woman. A skilled diplomat and fierce warrior, Njinga kept the Portuguese at bay from Ndongo for the 40 years of her rule.


Flowing freely between time periods, Njinga traces the diaspora of Njinga’s people to Brazil and the United States, linking the ancient warrior’s life to that of a contemporary African-American woman who has lost touch with her heritage.


As storytelling is a deeply-rooted element of African culture, Njinga features two Kilunda (spirit) characters who step in and out of the action, leading the viewers through the play. The final element in the mix is capoeira, the liquid, hybrid movement form of self-defense as dance — which has its roots in Angola and flourishes today in Brazil.


Oliveros’ score, and the use of electronics and spatialization, provides an environment for the extensive use of traditional African music, heightening the drama.


This recording is based on the BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) Next Wave Festival performances of 1993. In addition to Oliveros’ music and sound design, Njinga incorporates traditional Kongolese music arranged by Titos Sompas, and Brazilian music arranged by Nego Gato. 


Presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. In English, Congolese, Portuguese.


Reviews from the original BAM Production:

“Spectacular drumming and dancing… Njinga proves its own lesson — that the voices of the ancestors are still strong.”

— Jon Pareles, New York Times


 “It was superb. At the end I was crying for the sheer power of it.”

— Cynthia Poten, Delaware River Keeper



Aspect ratio 4:3. NOTE: This historic document contains video and audio  imperfections inherent in the original source materials.


Total DVD playing time: 3 hours 13 minutes





ANCESTRAL VOICES (1992), directed by Stephen Barnwell, follows the 1992 workshops for Njinga in Woodstock, N.Y. as well as historical background from a visit to Bahia, Brazil in 1990. Participants interviewed include Ione, Oliveros, performers Luisah Teish and Fannie Green, Carol Chappel, Valerie Maynard, Mestre João Grande (Grand Master of Capoeira) and Davi Vierira (Capoeira dancer). (56:40, aspect ratio 4:3).


PEAK MOMENTS (2009), filmed and edited by Victoria Kereszi. Ione and Oliveros reflect on the 8-year development of Njinga leading to the Lisbon/Gulbenkian Foundation performance (1993), and the subsequent development of Njinga through today. (12:51, aspect ratio 16:9)

Related Resources:


St. George and the Dragon – with American Voices (mode 40)


Sanctuary – with Deep Listening Band (mode 46)

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