Why was innovative Congolese rap star, Baloji, not on the billing for WOMAD 2011.? Check these videos. This man is hip. Born in the Congo but raised in Belgium, a pan African exile, who declares “My story is made up of fragments… broken like my timbre”.
Baloji means sorcerer, a fitting name for a man with a razor sharp mind who has transformed himself from one of the most successful MCs on the French scene into an all round producer, musician, rapper. His acclaimed first solo-album ‘Hotel Impala’ featured the likes of Amp Fiddler and was Baloji’s response to a question posed by his birth mother over the phone in 2005: “What have you done for the past 25 years?”
When Baloji finished ‘Hotel Impala’ he maintains he had no choice but to return to the Congo. Fortune smiled upon him as the album won him an invite to do a creative writing workshop and performance in Zaire. When he accepted Baloji knew his first stop was the recording studio.
The result was the 2010 album “Kinshasa Succursale” – an in-situ re-recording of ‘Hotel Impala’ that organically turned into something completely different. It features a trio of balafons, a host of voices – all shades and colours, the whole of Zaiko Langa Langa and Konono No 1. Baloj had only dreamt of those Congolese guitars – the ghost of Franco and Dr Nico – urban music but that dream came true and as he says, “No two bars are the same, no need for a metronome, effects are superfluous, everything is all done acoustically, even the distortions of the guitars are natural…”. The dynamics of these sessions burst from the grooves.
The first supersonic single was ‘Karibu Ya Bintou’ (Welcome to Life in Limbo) features the inimitable Konono N°1 and it has to said that his version of Kabaselle’s classic, ‘Independence Cha-Cha’ is faithful to the original and pure elegance!