ParisDjs.com in a recent podcast mix focusing on contemporary African music, state that “Africa is the future” and while I believe this is an undeniable truth, the future wont sound like a Fela Kuti record released in 1975, but rather closer to the music that artsists like Baloji are making today. Unlike many of the artists included in the ParisDJs mix, Baloji is not using the same formula of blaring horn sections, thundering congas and chicken-scratch guitars as his vehicle, but rather using the influence of African music of the last 60+ years to guide his politically charged rapping into the future where Africa is king.
Using a completely acoustic backing band Baloji incorporates all elements of the West African musical tradition in his quest for a spiritual unity amongst not just those people in his native Congo, but to anyone who has the capacity to feel music. As many hoping to escape the degradation and civil war that imperialism left across the continent of Africa, Baloji moved to Belgium as a child. He spent time in the hip hop group Starflam, before parting ways and recording his first solo release, Hotel Impala in 2007. The record has an African vibe as far as hip hop records go, but with his latest release Kunshasa Succularse he abandons the drum machines, samples and electronic effects, in favor for a completely organic sound while adapting many of the songs off the Hotel Impala record. There are a few totally new numbers on here, specifically the latest single “Le Jour d’Après – Siku Ya Baadaye (Indépendance Cha-Cha)” which is a cover of a song written in celebration of Congolese independence from Belgium in 1960. 2010 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the ousting of European control of Congo and Baloji is at the helm of a pivotal movement to help stabilize a nation that have struggled with poverty and civil war for most of its European cartographical existence. For a country who only dropped dictatorial rule in 1997, who democratically elected their first president in 2001, who saw their leader assassinated in 2003 and who had to elect a new president (the prior’s son) in 2006, 2010 marks a pivotal year as country-wide elections are due to take place again.
Baloji spent 2009 recording with various musicians in the Democratic Republic of Congo adapting his previous work with inspired jam sessions molding a style of pan-African music with rapping in French (the official language of the DRC) and Swahili (the official language of the Congolese) with touches of English (the official language of capitalism). The result is absolutely beautiful, an organic product that could not have been created anywhere else other than the dirt streets of Congo’s captial Kinshasa. This is the sound of future-Africa, an internalization of roots that are as old as the human race itself, with the conscious knowledge of the past, present and future.
When I first heard Kunshasa Succularse it was released as a free download backed by Baloji himself, a product geared towards a now online Africa. I had been gearing up to post the album here, but while doing my research this week I found the old links taken down and according to his Myspace page, Kunshasa will be officially released by French label Kraked in September of this year. The move is understandable, Kraked is responsible for the influential blog ParisDjs.com as well as playing a role in the biggest distribution networks in Europe. I will respect both Baloji and his record label by not posting the album, but I will instead post the videos he has made.
Baloji will be a name to watch in the future of not just African music, not just hip hop, but all conscious music of the future.
– Written by Eric Cornejo at http://abeardofstars.blogspot.com/