Baloji: An Afrofuturist With Bold Music Reconstructs
He was born in Lubumbashi, DR Congo, the singer rapper and poet grew up in Belgium, where he currently resides. The multi-talented artist is a master creator, whose music is a fusion of urban particularly experimental schemes and the authentic but disruptive African sounds. Baloji has embraced experimentation to the full; his music daringly journeys as he references it, between rock-rumba and futuristic funk.
Baloji who is also a film maker was part of the Hip-Hop collective dubbed Starflam, the group he co-founded started out in Liège, when he was around 15 years old. Previously known as H-Posse the group featured; DJ Mig One, Fred’alabas, Seg and Baloji himself, Akro and Mista R and they became the ‘Linguistic Gangsters’ (otherwise Malfrats Linguistiques). The departure of Mista R, paved way for new signees Kaer and Pavé and this is when they adopted the name Starflam.
After a stint with the rap collective, Baloji decided to go separate ways, around 2004. Starflam did three albums, one being platinum certified. The first was ‘Starflam’ released in 1998, followed by ‘Survivant’ released on Capitol / EMI in 2001(platinum) then in 2003, the band of rappers released ‘Donne Moi De L’amour’. Most of the acts later opted for solo projects creating so much relevance around themselves and their work all over Belgium and internationally.
In 2008, Baloji dropped ‘Hotel Impala’, an autobiographical album about his life and a response to a letter from his mother whom he had broken contact with for the longest time. The artist cut contact with his mother after he left DR Congo to go live with his father in Belgium. Baloji followed up his hearty debut project with ‘Kinshasa Succursale’ in 2010. He was now exposing to the world his master experimentation, with a taste of a lot of emerging genres. In 2015 he released the critically acclaimed ‘64 Bits and Malachite’. In March 2018, the artist shared his new album with the world dubbed ‘137 Avenue Kaniama’, the first release to appear on Bella Union label.
Baloji’s new works are deeply inspired by his life, roots and different soundscapes even as he finds new paths to his sound and reconstructs of his personal journeys. The 14-track album continues his life story and the mother and runs for over an hour. The project shows the maturity of his craft. The artist goes back to trace his mother’s house which was on the street that actually became the name of the album.
“My mother’s house was originally on Avenue Kaniama in the Katuba neighbourhood of Lubumbashi. When I tried to meet her after 25 years, I couldn’t find her house number. The street just got smaller and smaller, until it couldn’t even be reached by car, so we thought it was dead-end. But then I got out and started walking, and in the end, I found her.” The artist recalls
Baloji’s music takes the path of great musicians; especially in relation to African acts, he addresses a lot around social justice, propaganda using satire and all. The musician gives different optics to Africa, a futuristic concept to the continent, inspired by different sounds which define the modern Africa. In his latest release, the singer evokes his creativity with a touch of cinematic experiences as he whirls through different afro-sounds from the 70s, and funked-up synths that will have you on the jig and sweat. The subject remains dear to him and his roots.
He released his first short-fiction film, dubbed ‘Kaniama Show’ which was released in March 2018.