fri 24/05/2019

CD: Baloji - Kinshasa Succursale | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Baloji - Kinshasa Succursale

CD: Baloji - Kinshasa Succursale

Belgium-Congolese rapper does his native country proud

Baloji has a respectful yet wholly contemporary take on Congolese roots music

Some critics have lazily compared Baloji to Somali rapper K’nann: both are African rappers who had lucky childhood escapes from countries about to descend into war and chaos, but beyond that they seem to have quite different approaches to what they do. K’naan is as much a pop musician and poet as he is a hip-hop artist, firmly concentrating on melody, song structure and hooks. Whereas Baloji, at least on the evidence of this album, seems to want to engage more with roots music while finding ways for his rhymes to fit in with already established musical idioms.

So Kinshasa bands Zaiko Langa-Langa and Konono No 1, along with vocal ensemble La Grace, are largely responsible for the great grooves and textures of this record - although Konono No 1 fans might be disappointed to learn that their signature sound of distorted thumb pianos only really features on a couple of tracks. It was only a matter of time before a hip-hop artist utilised the unique clamorous racket that this band make, but it’s good that it was Baloji. For he actually recorded with the band rather than just pinching a choice bar or two from them and then, in looping it, robbing it of its energy and momentum.

But worry not; too much Konono No 1 is probably bad for your health anyway. The other Congolese musicians and singers involved bring a lightness of touch and a feel for melody that introduces elements of South African jive, Afrobeat, mutuashi and soukous, all of which serve as a busy but flowing backdrop for this Belgium-based rapper to ask questions in French and Swahili about identity, race, black magic and God. The end result clearly benefited from being recorded in just a week using only the minimum of equipment, because there’s an urgency and immediacy to proceedings which makes Kinshasa Succursale one of the most earthily exciting albums of the year.

Watch Baloji and Konono No 1 performing "Karibu ya bintou"

  

Songs in French and Swahili about identity, race, black magic and God

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters