12 September 1978 (age 40)
Lubumbashi, Katanga, Congo, the Democratic Republic of the
Baloji (born 12 September 1978 in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo) and raised in Belgium is a rapper, MC, hip hop artist, poet and film director. As a teenager in 1996 (then known as MC Balo), he started his first rap collective, Starflam. In 2008, as Baloji, he released “Hotel Impala” an album conceived as a reply to a letter he received from his mother after a 25-year absence.
Baloji is an artist in motion, a musician, poet, film director, a man of images and ideas.
He’s in motion like the inhabitants of Avenue Kaniama in Lubumbashi. In motion like the synthetic afro beats he produces, the fruit of an unlikely alliance between rockrumba and futurist funk. In perpetual motion, like his limbs on stage as he fronts the Kaniama Show band, leading them in a sensual voodoo trance.
In motion like the era captured by his pen, an era where the intimate and the political come together and clash.
His father, a Congolese businessman and political operator, grew ill during his mother’s pregnancy, was cured by a traditional healer, and in gratitude named his son Baloji, a name that was guaranteed to give him the status of an outsider even in his own society. Baloji means “man of science” in Swahili, but during the colonial period, that meaning shifted as a result of Christian evangelisation, to signify “man of the occult sciences” and then “sorcerer”.
In order to avoid paying support to the boy’s mother, Baloji’s father first moved him to Ostend, Belgium, and then he grew up with his father’s family in Liège, losing all contact with his mother. “Everybody knew I wasn’t part of the family, but nobody talked about it. So, when my father left, I dropped out of school and left home.” So began a shadowy life on the streets, his visa, based on being in full-time education, soon lapsing. “If you don’t have a passport, you lose access to all other rights, so you get in a really f—ed-up situation.”
Beginnings with Starflam, as MC Balo (1996 – 2004)
Feeling estranged in his new environment and after disputes with his father and petty crimes and problems with the police, he left home and lived in a youth delinquent house working on his passion of rap and dance. Obsessed with rap, he taught himself English by listening to music with a dictionary beside him, while a spell living above a record shop taught him about rock, soul and latin music. Yet the glories of Congolese music – the great pan-African dance sound from the Sixties to the Nineties – meant nothing to him. “That was the worst music ever. I really hated it.”
Being only 16, he and his friends from Linguistic Malfrats (linguistic gangsters) founded the hip hop band Starflam (the reverse anagram of 'Malfrats'), in 1996. The band's self-titled debut album, Starflam (1997) was released a year later. and the follow-up album Survivant (2001), released on Capitol/EMI, went platinum and was re-released as Survivant Édition Spéciale on EMI in 2002, containing a bonus CD with remixes and music videos.
In 2003, they released their third studio album Donne moi de l'amour, although its predecessor, Survivant, remains the inevitable milestone, which featured "La Sonora" and "Amnésie Internationale", that were received well by the audience in both the north (Flanders, Dutch-speaking part) and the south (Wallonia, French-speaking part) of Belgium. After differences with the other members of the band, Baloji decided to quit music in 2004.
Solo, as Baloji (2004-present)
After Baloji received a letter from his mother, who he hadn't seen since 1981, and after winning a poetry competition in Paris, France, he decided to return to music in 2006 as a solo artist. His debut solo album, Hotel Impala (2008) was an autobiographical album about his life, including a hearty response to his mother's letter. The album was certified gold, with the album winning two "Octaves de la musique" awards as well as "Rapsat-Lelièvre Award" and "Brassens Awards for Lyricists". In 2010, he released his second album, Kinshasa Succursale and in 2015 the EP 64 Bits & Malachite.
Baloji directs his own videos and the creates the visuals for his varied projects. His first short fiction film, “KANIAMA SHOW”, was released on February 25th, 2018. It takes the form of a satire on African propaganda TV shows. His first feature film, for which he has written the screenplay, is planned for 2019
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