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Baloji, or the flamboyant troubadour of “World Beat” By Alain Mabanckou (Prix Renaudot, Man Booker International finalist)
The album 137 Avenue Kaniama is the confirmation of the formidable artistic statement we all became aware of from the release of Hotel Impala, Baloji’s first solo album, in 2008. That first album was the first step on the path of a great aesthetic project: talking about the fractures in the world using the sounds of our time, without getting too far away from the heritage of the musical trailblazers of the dark continent. If the Nigerian Fela Kuti ennobled Afro Beat, year after year Baloji takes the path of what I would describe as World Beat, a path that takes a whisper of the world’s torment from his politically fragile native Congo, all the way to his sisters and brothers caught up in the cycle of migration between the North and the South…
137 Avenue Kaniama is the distillation of a rhythmic atmosphere which calls on the musical heritage of the 1970s, that era of artistic apotheosis, when Afro-American artists were inspired by African music and vice versa.
137 Avenue Kaniama is also a book, with all its references (allusions to Dany Laferrière, or coopting the inventive energy of Tchicaya U’Tamsi and his famous expression, “Congaulois”, etc.). We are in a patchwork universe here, 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!