Music Reviews
3:21 pm
Tue March 27, 2012

Baloji: Finding A Home In His Music

Rapper Baloji was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo but raised in Belgium. He's built a reputation for incorporating Congolese music into his mix, though he mostly raps in French, his deep voice full of cocky brashness. You can catch his vibe without translation, but it's worth reading the liner notes to get his messages, as well. Baloji raps with brazen ease about the indignities of life as an African in Belgium, but also the tragic, bloody history of his homeland on his second album, Kinshasa Succursale.

Unlike legions of his rapping contemporaries, Baloji steers clear of familiar beats; he grew up on American rap but later turned to the rich dance grooves of Congolese music. The album's opening track, "Le Jour d'Après/Siku Ya Baadaye (Indépendance Cha-Cha)," revisits a 1960 Congo classic celebrating the country's independence. His edgy rap asks why none of the promises of that era ever came true.

Baloji recorded parts of Kinshasa Succursale in Kinshasa — no easy task, given that city's chaotic state. He evokes that chaos in the standout track "Karibu Ya Bintou," which features the distorted thumb pianos of the band Konono No. 1.

Baloji is a profoundly uncomfortable artist. He says he feels like a stranger both in Belgium and in Congo, but that existential bind seems to inspire him as he taps powerful music from both worlds to create a landscape of his own — perhaps the only place he really feels at home.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Ever since the inception of rap music, musicians here have been mining older American music for beats. And as various cultures adopt rap, they're doing the same thing with their own musical heritage.

Baloji is a rapper born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and raised in Belgium. He uses Congolese music of the past as the inspiration for his sound and Banning Eyre has this review of his latest album.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BALOJI: (Singing in foreign language)

BANNING EYRE: Baloji mostly raps in French, his deep voice full of cocky brashness. You can catch his vibe without translation, but it's worth reading the CD notes to get his messages as well. Baloji raps with brazen ease about the indignities of being an African in Belgium. But also the tragic, bloody history of his Congolese homeland.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BALOJI: (Singing in foreign language)

EYRE: Unlike legions of his African hip-hop contemporaries, Baloji steers clear of familiar beats. He grew up on American rap, but later turned to the rich dance grooves of Congo music.

This CD's opening track revisits a 1960 Congo classic celebrating the country's independence. Baloji's edgy rap asks why none of the promises of that era ever came true.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LE JOUR D'APRÈS/SIKU YA BAADAYE (INDÉPENDANCE CHA-CHA)")

BALOJI: (Singing in foreign language)

EYRE: Baloji recorded parts of this CD in Kinshasa. No easy task, given that city's chaotic state. He evokes that chaos in a standout track featuring the distorted thumb pianos of the band, Konono No. 1.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KARIBU YA BINTOU")

BALOJI: (Singing in foreign language)

EYRE: Baloji is a profoundly uncomfortable artist. He feels like a stranger, both in Belgium and in the Congo. But that existential bind seems to inspire him as he taps powerful music from both worlds to create a landscape of his own, perhaps the only place he really feels at home.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BALOJI: (Singing in foreign language)

SIEGEL: The album by Baloji is called "Kinshasa Succursale." Our reviewer, Banning Eyre, is senior editor at AfroPop.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BALOJI: (Singing in foreign language)

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.

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