Sometimes, a song is just good enough and it's better not to reach out too much to discover more about the artist. You're getting caught by the sounds and the melody, and maybe the video hits the right chord but sometimes, it's only skin deep: there's nothing behind the song...Or worst: the band is hollow and vain and all they wanted was those 5 minutes of fame.
And sometimes, the song touches you, and the story behind the artist or the band just makes it shines specially and the deeper you go, the more interesting the artist is. Baloji is that. And more.
Born in Congo but raised in Belgium, Baloji ("sorcerer" in Tschiluba language) was a slam artist in a band called Starflam and he could have stay that way, rhyming the nights away with his rich and witty lines, but he decided hip hop wasn't somehow enough. A letter from his mum which he hadn't seen or heard of for the last 15 years after he ran from home, led him to undertake a journey back to his roots, back to Congo but also back to Ostend where he could feel common vibes with Marvin Gaye, another man in exile who took cover in the belgian city-by-the-sea. And an album was born from the incredibly emotive journey taken by Baloji: Hotel Impala. An album rich, dense, moving and split betwen continents, like Baloji: split between the deep roots of African music and rap, exploded between the abuse of electricity in Brussels and the old yellow neons lights of Matonge, Congo, Hotel Impala takes you along the musical travelling of a modern griot, between soul music and rumba, between mind reflections and muscle flexions, between a magical Africa and a swerving Europe.
His second album, Kinshasa Succursale, is out in 2010 and was recorded in Congo, digging even deeper in Baloji's heritage but also interestingly distorted, both semantically and musically. Because the more Baloji gets into his past, the more he understands he's between two chairs, the Old days, the old ways, the old images we may have from a past we're embellishing and the frontal shock a musician can have when he travels the globe, playing the songs that pours out his heart. Today Baloji is playing Brazil when three days ago he was at the SXSW in Texas and later this months he'll be playing Paris and the Netherlands.
We can only be sure the next musical stories Baloji will tell us are going to be again extraordinary little legends, just like the griot tells the crowd, around the fire, at night.