Baloji Official
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Baloji Official

Brussels, Brussels Capital Region, Belgium | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | INDIE

Brussels, Brussels Capital Region, Belgium | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Alternative Afropop




"Baloji: El hijo pródigo del Hip Hop Congoleño"

Nacido en la República Democrática de Congo, pero crecido en Bélgica, Baloji fue el típico adolescente fascinado por el hip-hop que odiaba la música de sus padres; en su caso, congoleña. Durante una década formó parte del grupo de hip-hop Starflam y al ver cómo el rapero de Chicago Kanye West sampleaba discos de Otis Redding se introdujo en el soul y el jazz. Desde allí llegó, por el camino más largo, hasta Franco, Tabu Ley y otras leyendas de su país influidas por la música americana de los 70.
Tras Hotel Impala (2007), un debut prometedora transición, Baloji se ha redescubierto a sí mismo. En su segundo disco, Kinshasa succursale (2011) hay soul, rumba zaireña, soca, guitarras eléctricas, funk, percusiones tribales, hip-hop... Es un diálogo fértil, constante e intenso entre pasado y presente. Un diálogo literal, puesto que Baloji viajó hasta la capital congoleña y durante seis semanas convocó a jóvenes cantantes locales como Royce Mbumba e históricas formaciones del género soukous como Zaïko Langa-Langa.

'SOULMAN' Y 'SHOWMAN' / Uno de sus encuentros más osados y fructíferos es Karibu ya bintou, canción en colaboración con Konono Nº1 (banda estandarte del revolucionario sonido congotronics) donde sus rimas suenan reforzadas por los estridentes y electrificados likembes (rudimentario instrumento de mano hecho de madera y láminas de metal). Otra, Le jour d'après, es una revisión crítica del himno Indépendance cha-cha (algo así como el equivalente congoleño a nuestro Libertad sin ira) que en 1960 sirvió para celebrar la independencia respecto a Bélgica con un festivo nos damos la mano y aquí no ha pasado nada.

A sus 31 años, Baloji sigue rimando principalmente en francés, pero ya es mucho más que un rapero. Es un soulman y showman integral con una visión abierta de la música desde la que invita a sus compatriotas a no reproducir patrones coloniales y a recordar que la democracia de su país es muy joven y frágil y, por lo tanto, hay que cuidarla bien.

En el último año Baloji ha actuado por medio mundo y ha dado conferencias en las que explica cómo se reconcilió con sus raíces. Ya no puede predicar mucho más con el ejemplo: en su banda, la Orchestre de la Katuba, toca Dizzy Mandjeko, veterano guitarrista de Franco y de Tabu Ley. - El Periódico

"Global Fest, Music speaks many languages"

“Are you ready to party with us?” asked Baloji, a Congolese singer, songwriter and rapper, as he kicked his band into a sunny, danceable three-chord soukous groove during Globalfest 2014 at Webster Hall on Sunday night. The song bounded along with lyrics in Lingala. Eventually, in English, Baloji gave instructions for a dance step: “Run for cover — protect yourself, because the army is shooting on you, you, you, you and your people,” he said. “So if you want to stay alive, stay down, down, down,” he continued, cuing the audience to crouch.

It was a sly reminder of language barriers, cultural expectations and the fact that musical styles come from particular places and histories. The 11th annual Globalfest — a five-hour, 12-act world-music showcase — was full of fusions both geographical and temporal: local and far-flung, old and new. What fortified nearly every performance was the sense that the music still comes from some place like home.

That was true for the Como Mamas, three women from Como, Miss., singing familiar gospel songs with a cappella gusto. Each one took the lead while the other two sang responses, working the repetitions up to raspy affirmations; then one woman would preach a little while the other two caught their breath. - New York Times

"Kinshasa Succursale"

Baloji is a Congolese rapper who has lived most of his life in the French-speaking Wallonian part of Belgium. In Swahili, his name means ‘sorcerer’. Such arcane practices were doubtless crucial to the construction of this remarkably multi-layered album. It began as an extension of Baloji’s 2008 disc Hotel Impala, but swiftly metamorphosed into a fresh wave of writing and re-interpretation. Intent on an advanced form of field recording, Baloji returned to his homeland, in search of musical understanding and communal improvisation.

The album opens with a fairly traditional Congolese-styled number, including gospel-like exchanges, singing guitar figures and sweet-voiced old-school melodicism. A rap element is gently introduced towards the end, and by the second song, Baloji’s rhymes have already increased in their density, buoyed by acoustic guitars, a female chorus and a ragged, street-style horn section. Already, the album’s sounding like it’s awash with a bubbling pot of unlikely elements, but only if the listener is too studious, too concerned with the separation of styles. It’s desirable to just let the amalgamated forms flow past, unworried about the categories at large, and the lineage involved.

An electrifying production harnesses the flashpoint of inspiration. Karibu Ya Bintou features the Konono No. 1, rending the soundscape with their distinctive distortion sculptures. There are further musical detours ahead, with several songs dipping into surprising depths: full-blown Congolese soukous, reggae, 1970s rock-soul and even doo-wop gospel rear their respective heads. At no time is the musical foundation particularly derived from mainline hip hop, but this doesn’t prevent Baloji from delivering his adept and agile lines in sympathetic fashion. The most surprising team-up is delayed until late in the album, with Detroit retro-funk-soul singer Amp Fiddler working through the two-part Nazongi Ndako alongside the veteran Congolese soukous combo Zaïko Langa Langa. Baloji is interested in an involved fusion that is at once nostalgic and innovative, quickly establishing its own musical identity.

There’s also a high class of bonus tracks, with three remixes that feature guest rapping appearances from the Brooklyn-transplanted Ghanaian rapper Blitz the Ambassador and actual native Brooklynite Theophilus London. - The Guardian

"Baloji: The Sorcerer of African rap"

When you’re at the airport, about to be deported, there’s no friendly cop to tell you you can phone your family,” says Congolese rapper Baloji. “That happens in films, not in reality. I was crying, telling them I didn’t want to go. Congo is my country, but I’d been living in Belgium for 20 years. That was the moment I realised the strength of my connection to Europe.”
One of the most exciting talents to emerge over the past year – his current album Kinshasa Succursale is a superbly nuanced blend of verbal passion, traditional Congolese sounds, funk and reggae – Baloji could be the artist to give African rap a truly global profile. Despite the massive popularity of rap on the continent itself, and isolated successes such as Somali wordsmith K’Naan, the international perception of African hip hop has been of imitative gangsta rap at one end of the spectrum and bland positivism at the other.
Baloji, however, has the great advantage of being able to look at Africa from both inside and outside. He understands the contradictory position of the African in Europe having plumbed it to the depths in his own life. Commanding in performance, philosophical in conversation, he has been, in more difficult stages of his life, just the sort of shiftless, stateless marginal person who puts the wind up settled Western society – a sometime illegal migrant who survived for years through petty crime.
“I was the product of a one-night stand,” he says matter-of-factly. His father, a Congolese businessman and political operator, grew ill during his mother’s pregnancy, was cured by a traditional healer, and in gratitude named his son Baloji (“sorcerer” in Swahili), a name that was guaranteed to give him the status of an outsider even in his own society.
In order to avoid paying support to the boy’s mother, Baloji’s father moved him to Belgium, where he grew up with his father’s family in Liège . “Everybody knew I wasn’t part of the family, but nobody talked about it. So, when my father left, I dropped out of school and left home.” So began a shadowy life on the streets, his visa, based on being in full-time education, soon lapsing. “If you don’t have a passport, you lose access to all other rights, so you get in a really f---ed-up situation.”
Obsessed with rap, he taught himself English by listening to music with a dictionary beside him, while a spell living above a record shop taught him about rock, soul and latin music. Yet the glories of Congolese music – the great pan-African dance sound from the Sixties to the Nineties – meant nothing to him. “That was the worst music ever. I really hated it.”
While rapping with local agit-hip hop band Starflam, he supported himself by nefarious means which he now regards with embarrassment. “I… stole things,” he says, a touch evasively. He was a criminal? “I never killed!” An application for a visa to perform in Canada led to his arrest and near-deportation, only averted when his then girlfriend’s mother agreed to stand as his monetary guardian. It was an experience that turned his life around. “I realised everything I was about to lose – to be sent somewhere I didn’t know anybody. I decided to change my life.”
A letter from his mother, with whom he’d had no contact for two decades, led to a further traumatic assessment of his position. “People in Africa regard a child in Europe as a pension. The eldest child goes to university, gets a good job and supports the family. How could I explain to her that I didn’t finish school and had no qualifications? I decided to record an album that would tell her everything I had been through.”
The resulting disc, Hotel Impala, made a considerable impact on the European rap scene, though his attempt to present it to his mother on a return trip to Congo was a disaster. “I realised it was the sort of gesture only a European would make. It meant nothing to her. She wanted me to support the whole family, but I wasn’t in a position to do that.”
His mixed feelings towards Africa are brilliantly expressed on Kinshasa Succursale, which chronicles his belated discovery of his musical roots. On the one hand, he excoriates Europe for treating Africa as an exotic spectacle; on the other, he lambasts Africa for making so little progress since independence, over arrangements that deploy diverse Congolese sounds from the distorted thumb pianos of the local group Konono No 1 to the lilting guitar grooves of classic dance band Zaiko Langa Langa.
If he is able to utilise these elements in ways that will make sense to Western listeners beyond the African rap milieu, subtly offsetting them with funk, soul and reggae touches, while producing superb videos to accompany them, that is because he himself is coming to this music with ears that are at least half Western.
“I’m an Afropean,” he says. “I’m a mix. Every day I’m confronted by the reality of being a black person in Europe. I don’t really belong in Africa either. But this in-between situation is also a position: it’s not neither one thing nor the other. It’s a culture in its own right.” - The Telegraph

"Baloji: Mon soricier bien aimé"

Venu du hip-hop et de Belgique, le Congolais Baloji vénère Léo Ferré, Marvin Gaye ou Joy Division. C’est en Afrique, avec des stars locales, qu’il a enregistré son nouvel album : “C’est pas de la world-music, c’est de la musique de chez nous !”. Critique et écoute.
"Je suis né d’une aventure", dit Baloji. Son prénom veut dire “le sorcier”. Son père l’a baptisé ainsi, au Congo, en hommage à un guérisseur qui l’avait sauvé d’une maladie grave. Autour de Baloji rôdent des esprits. Le plus grand, le plus bienveillant, s’appelle Marvin Gaye. En 1981, Baloji a 3 ans et il débarque à Ostende, en Belgique, avec son père. Poursuivi par le fisc américain, Marvin Gaye échoue à Ostende la même année. Mythe fondateur dans l’histoire de Baloji. Avance rapide : vingt-cinq ans plus tard, Baloji, qui vient de connaître son heure de gloire locale avec le groupe de rap belge Starflam, reçoit du Congo une lettre d’une femme qui prétend être sa mère. Elle lui demande des nouvelles, lui dit qu’elle l’a vu à la télé, explique qu’elle avait pressenti la carrière de son fils, parce qu’il vivait au pays de Marvin Gaye.

A l’époque, Baloji a quasiment lâché la musique. Sa vie au plat pays n’a pas été un long fleuve Congo tranquille. Son père est reparti vivre en Afrique quand il avait 13 ans. Une paire d’années plus tard, Baloji quitte l’école et le foyer. La musique le porte : le r’n’b, le rap (“Quand Tonton David parlait des petits voleurs dans les supermarchés, je m’identifiais grave”), la chanson (“Léo Ferré, ça m’a bousillé la tête, c’est plus percutant que le rap“), la soul vintage des grands frères DJ. A Liège, il vit pendant sept ans au-dessus du disquaire Caroline et apprend que le rock blanc à guitares, de Joy Division aux Black Keys, peut aussi groover. Tout, sauf la musique congolaise, “parce que c’était la musique des parents”. En 2006, Marvin Gaye se rappelle au bon souvenir de Baloji : peu après avoir reçu la lettre de sa mère, il découvre la chanson I’m Going Home, qui dit : “Je rentre chez moi, pour voir ma mère, pour voir mon cher vieux papa…” Les esprits concordent : pour Baloji, il est temps de rentrer.

Son premier album, Hotel Impala, trésor de rap-soul sorti en 2008, sera un triple hommage autobiographique (à ses parents et à Marvin Gaye), tout en exposant subtilement sa condition d’Afropéen (il a été sans-papiers pendant trois ans, confronté à l’infamie des centres de rétention). Ce disque permet à Baloji de renouer le lien avec ses parents – tissé d’incompréhensions et de désillusions. “J’ai revu mes parents, mais rien ne s’est passé comme je l’avais naïvement prévu. I’m going home… J’ai surtout compris que je ne serais jamais chez moi au Congo.”

Baloji va pourtant y retourner. Hotel Impala n’était qu’une étape. Il enregistre alors Kinshasa Succursale, son deuxième album, à Kinshasa, en six jours, sur un studio mobile, avec la crème brûlée des musiciens locaux (le toaster Larousse Marciano, les ferrailleurs de Konono n°1, le chanteur Royce Mbumba et un paquet d’autres, balafonistes, guitaristes, choristes…). “C’est pas de la world-music, c’est de la musique de chez nous !”, scande Baloji dans un porte-voix cabossé du Konono n°1 à la fin de Karibu Ya Bintou, le meilleur morceau de Kinshasa Succursale.

C’est de la musique qui vit, qui saigne, qui gronde, qui brûle, qui groove. Du rap cathartique, qui cite Manu Dibango et Marvin Gaye tout en dansant la rumba barbelée. Du funk afro va-nu-pieds, mais toujours bien sapé. Il y a dans ce disque l’urgence, le danger de Kinshasa. Et les péripéties d’une vie, l’énergie déterminée du fugitif.

Friction des plaques continentales : entre Congo et Belgique, d’un chaos l’autre, Baloji danse sur la brèche. Parce qu’il a signé avec le label Crammed, on peut entendre son disque comme une réponse à la scène Congotronics. Mais Kinshasa Succursale est surtout un brûlot visionnaire et viscéral, de classe internationale. Depuis un an, alors que son disque restait dans les cartons pour une sombre histoire de distribution, Baloji a tourné au Congo, aux Etats-Unis, en Angleterre. Il a travaillé avec Theophilus London et Blitz The Ambassador, reçu les félicitations de Nick Cave, Questlove ou Gilles Peterson, et les louanges de la critique anglo-saxonne. Nul n’est prophète en son pays. Ça tombe bien, Baloji n’a pas de pays et il est un sorcier. - Les Inrokuptibles

"L´Album preelectorel de Baloji le congolais"

"Mon pays est un continent émergent, bâti en moins de cinquante ans", rappe Baloji dans son nouvel album Kinshasa Succursale (Crammed Discs). Le rappeur belge d'origine congolaise a mis quatre ans à le terminer pour finalement le sortir cette semaine, à quelques jours de la présidentielle en République démocratique du Congo (RDC), lundi 28 novembre, la deuxième élection libre depuis 1960.
Fils d'un des fondateurs de l'UPDS, Union pour la démocratie et le progrès social, principal parti d'opposition, Baloji se garde bien de se prononcer pour un des onze candidats face à l'actuel président, Joseph Kabila : "Je reçois des informations contradictoires, se justifie-t-il, certains me disent que Kabila va se retirer, d'autres qu'il va gagner les élections. Et puis surtout, mon histoire est plus européenne qu'africaine."

Baloji, naturalisé belge en 2001 après quarante-cinq jours dans un centre de rétention près de Liège, a été enlevé à 3 ans à sa mère par son père, un homme d'affaires propriétaire d'un hôtel à Lubumbashi, une ville minière de RDC. Son premier album soul, Hotel Impala (2008), est la réponse de Baloji à sa mère, qui l'a retrouvé vingt-cinq après grâce à la télé.

"Sentiment d'insécurité"

Son retour au Congo-Kinshasa en 2007 est, dit-il, "catastrophique d'un point de vue familial". Il tourne quand même le clip de Tout ceci ne vous rendra pas le Congo, dont il a piqué la musique à Manu Dibango : "Il m'a menacé de me faire un procès , mais, finalement, on a sympathisé. Il m'a fait découvrir la musique congolaise de 1965 à 1975. Avant, je faisais un rejet total. "

Baloji décide, du coup, de faire une version congolaise de son album. Au fil de ses allers-retours - un premier repérage en 2008 pour recruter des artistes, l'enregistrement en six jours avec 45 musiciens en 2009 dans les studios de la télévision nationale -, des concerts, du tournage des clips, il redécouvre la RDC, un pays "où on change l'or en plomb", chante-t-il : "On a fait une tournée l'an passé. Il y a un sentiment d'insécurité permanent, mais j'ai senti un truc très fort dans les villes frontalières. Goma, à l'est, on dit que c'est une ville martyre : c'est pire que ça encore, mais, malgré tout, les gens se projettent dans un modèle qui n'est plus l'Europe mais celui de leurs pays voisins : la Tanzanie, l'Angola, l'Afrique du Sud, le Kenya."

Pour faire connaître son disque, que ses producteurs ne voulaient pas sortir, Baloji a presque appliqué cette dynamique. Il ne s'est pas tourné vers la Belgique et la France mais vers les Anglo-Saxons et l'Amérique latine, twittant ses clips. Ses vidéos, Indépendance cha-cha et Karibu Ya Bintou, filmées sans moyens, restituent la rugosité et l'énergie de Kinshasa. Elles ont fait le tour des sites branchés anglo-saxons. Kinshasa Succursale s'ouvre par une reprise d'Indépendance cha-cha : "Pour que nos démocraties progressent, il faut qu'elles apprennent de nos erreurs de jeunesse", rappe Baloji. Verdict dans les urnes, lundi ; et le 12 décembre sur la scène du Comedy Club, à Paris.

Stéphanie Binet - Le Monde






The sorcerer of words returns

Baloji, an innovative Belgian-Congolese MC and songwriter imposes his own style of futuristic African music, was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1978. At the age of 4, he arrived in Belgium with his father and grew up in Lige. As a young adolescent, he discovered hip-hop, a passion for tagging, rap & dance. At 15 he joined the the Starflam Collective, a figurehead of Belgian hip-hop, who released a platinum selling disc Survivant (2001). Baloji decided to leave the group in 2004. It was a letter from his mother, whom he had not seen since 1981, and winning a poetry competition in Paris, that pushed him back to pursue the muse of music. His first solo recording, Hotel Impala (2008), as much of a response to the letter of his mother as it is a quest to find his identity, is coloured with influences of soul, afrobeat, and hip-hop. A certified Gold Record, the album won two Octaves de la music (a Belgian equivalant to the Grammys) as well as the Rapsat-Lelievre Prize and the Brassens prize for lyric writing. In 2009, Baljoi left for Kinshasa to work with local musicians. In the course of 6 days, he produced the 14 tracks which make up his second album, Kinshasa Succursale.

The post- hip hop sound of his album Kinshasa Succursale is rooted in three different continents: inspired by traditional French singer-songwriters, American funk-soul (as echoed and revisited in hip hop)  and the great diversity of Congolese music, from old-school rumba to the current tradi-modern sound. Baloji and the Katuba Orchestra revisit 50 years of Congolese music under the patronage of Papa Dizzy Majeku, the famous Congolese guitarist who played with Tabu Ley Rochereau and Franco Luambo Makiadi".

The album Kinshasa Succursale got at least 35 "4 stars and plus" articles and columns (the Guardian, NY times, independent, Songlines, Tlrama (Fr), les Inrocks (Fr),), a tour of more than 150 concerts throughout the world (USA, Brazil, Africa and the whole Europe), and the support of Nick Cave, Questlove from the Roots, Damon Albarn, Justice and even Elvis Costello.

The video of the song Karibu ya Bintou, which was produced in collaboration with DR Films, received numerous prizes including the prize for the best music video at the Festival

International du Film Francophone (FIFF) in 2010 and was nominated at the MTV Europe Awards. Baloji is developing a parallel career as an actor for directors such as Michael Roskam (he features in the Oscar nominated Bullhead), Everaldo Gout, Fabrice Duwelz, Andrew Dosunmu, Felix Van Groeningen, Thomas Vincent and Nigel Thilmon.

Band members / instrumentation: 

  • Baloji, Band leader
  • Dizzy Mandjeku, guitar
  • Saidou Ilboudo, drums
  • Didier Likeng , bass
  • Philippe Ekoka, keyboards