After composing for others, James BKS released Wolves of Africa, a debut album that mixes traditional African music and urban sounds. A beautiful tribute to his origins and to his father, the famous Cameroonian musician Manu Dibango.
On July 8, “Wolves of Africa” was released, the first solo album by James BKS, a Franco-Cameroonian multi-instrumentalist who became known to a wide public in 2018 with his single “Kwele”. An album he wrote with African, American and European artists such as Idris Elba Idris, Q-Tip, Allan Kingdom or Little Simz.
Lee-James Edjouma, aka James BKS, was born in France in 1982 and immigrated to the United States with his family at the age of 19. He dreams of becoming a basketball player until he starts playing around with virtual instruments and music software during college. Since then, this passion for composing has never left him, allowing him to work for the greatest American rappers such as Ja Rule, Puff Daddy and Snoop Dogg. While signed to Universal, the young artist nevertheless lost his soul and freedom there.
A crucial encounter
He decides to return to France and start over. And in a Paris bar in 2012, he accidentally met his biological father, who is none other than the famous Cameroonian saxophonist and singer Manu Dibango. His mother had only revealed his parents’ names to him a few years earlier, when she understood that he was serious about his musical career. However, the young man had not wanted to meet him.
“I met him late, in the evening of his life,” the musician tells RTS, who passed the Paléo festival. We were fortunate enough to spend seven years together that changed my life and I think also made him see that there was some continuity. It was something that was very strong.
The two men go on tour together, an opportunity for the son to discover a Cameroonian culture and heritage he knew little about. “What’s interesting about the way we hit it off musically is that we were equals. He saw me as a musician. We talked about music. He respected my background. He let me do that and gave me some advice. He was so nice,” recalls James BKS.
Inspired by his father
And when he tells his father that he feels ready for a solo project, he gives him a sideways glance: “well, well, it’s not too early, son”. Manu Dibango will not have the opportunity to see the peak of his boy’s first album swept away by Covid in 2020 at the age of 86. And yet it is implicitly present on this disc, which expertly blends traditional African music and urban rhythms. Be it the jointly composed song “Panda Nija” or a sample of the song “Kwele”.
>> To see and hear: the song “Pana Nija” by James BKS (feat. Gracy Hopkins)
A tribute that also subtly runs through the cover of “Wolfes of Africa” where James BKS strikes the same pose as his father on the album “Wakafrica” where his body was positioned to represent the African continent.
The cover of James BKS’ 2022 album “Wolfes of Africa” and that of his father Manu Dibango’s 1994 album “Wakafrika”. [DR]
“I was inspired by what he left behind, by his story, by his journey,” continues James BKS. He opened doors to this whole new generation. A generation that manages to merge its origins with everything that is made new for what he did.”
Radio topic: Michel Ndeze
Web adaptation: Andréanne Quartier-la-Tente
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