Congolese-born, Belgium-based artist Baloji today released a vibrant music video about digital and daily life, “Zombies” via NOWNESS and cross-posted on Dazed. The indie-afro musician is also the director, stylist, art director and producer of the film, which like his music blends tradition with modern flare, exploring our phone obsession and beyond in captivating colorful landscapes. Baloji, who has synesthesia so sees music in colors, describes the short film as“a journey between hope and dystopia in a hallucinated Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of the Congo), from the culture of the hair salon to solitary futuristic clubbing, from the urban parade to the glory of a dictator in campaign (Papa Bollo) to modern western in the Takeshi Kitano style.” Watch “Zombies” Here
The film features tracks “Spotlight,” “Glossine (Zombie)” and “Ciel d’encre” from Baloji’s album 137 Avenue Kaniama, released last year onBella Union (Fleet Foxes, Beach House, Father John Misty). The label is re-releasing the album as the artist originally intended it, as a one-track mixtape on May 3. In a world of fleeting singles, Kaniama: The Yellow Versionbrings back the full album listening experience.
Baloji is an artist in motion, a musician, poet, film director, and man of many images and ideas. Baloji means “man of science” in Swahili, but shifted during the colonial period to “man of the occult sciences and sorcery.” With influences from Outkast and LCD Soundsystem to African rumba king Tabu Ley Rochereau and salsa music legends Fania Records, he mixes hip hop culture with Congolese guitars and a melodic approach with some French chanson structure. His perpetual motion is showcased in music videos like “Soleil De Volt” where he fronts a satirical variety show band with flamboyant flare, also apparent in his sharp curation of Komono eyewear collections.
As a teenager, Baloji started his first rap collective, Starflam, and released his first solo album in 2008, Hotel Impala, conceived as a reply to a letter he received from his mother after a 25-year absence. 137 Kaniama Avenue is an extension of a story set in motion on that album. Baloji explains, “It’s the anchoring point of a trajectory marked by my intrinsic attachment to the country as much as by my remoteness from it. A geographic and symbolic distance, which gives me perspective, and inspiration.”
Award-winning novelist and poet Alain Mabanckou (Prix Renaudot, Man Booker International finalist) described the album as “a patchwork universe, rich in words, parables, a universe of stories, poetry in motion, which points a finger at the failings of our societies, now ravaged by collateral damage from globalisation. Baloji, with his legendary flamboyance, offers an artist-witness’s response to his era. Now it’s up to us to inhabit this space where freedom takes the form of art!”
Baloji will soon embark on an international tour, as well – dates here and below. Stay tuned for more!
3/15-17: New Plymouth, New Zealand @ WOMAD
4/05: Limoges, France @ Festival Hip Opérationnel
4/26: Saint-pierre, France @ Le Kerveguen
4/27: Saint-denis, France @ La Cité des Arts Réunion
4/28: Le Port, France @ Kabardock
5/11: Oignies, France @ Le Métaphone
5/16: Strasbourg, France @ Jardin Des 2 Rives
5/24: Saint-paul-lès-dax, France @ Festival Tempos du Monde
5/25: Montigny-la-resle, France @ Festival Les sons du Lub’
5/26: London, United Kingdom @ Victoria Park
7/26: Le Thoronet, France @ Plein Air-Place Du Village
8/03: Crozon, France @ Festival du Bout du Monde
9/01: Lyon, France @ Woodstower Festival (Woodstower Association)