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James BKS unveils his identity in full light – RFI Musique

Everyone was expecting him on a firm footing last November. His concert at La Cigale, in the fall, during the MaMA, a great gathering of music professionals, bringing together the cream of producers, broadcasters, journalists, had the effect of a bomb, as a prelude to his first disc, which was to be released a few days later. And then… silence. Turn around. Corridor noises evoked a change of label.

To listen to his music, a precious mix of rap, African music, r’n’b, you would have to wait a few more months. Today, James BKS explains: I wanted to wait for the right moment. I accumulated experience on stage, I fed on the vibrations of the public. And then, I come back with a double album. In the second part which comes out next November, I finally dare to sing my titles. I will thus present myself in the most successful way possible…”

However, it was in the heart of winter, in November 2021, that we met him, in his brand new recording studio, in the basement of a peaceful street, a stone’s throw from the Gare du Nord. . With his giant stature, his huge high white sneakers, his opaque black glasses, James Edjouma, his real name, strikes first with his shy kindness, carried by his bass voice.

Often, in his smile, emerges the child he was, cradled by the music of France Gall, Michel Berger, Balavoine, starmaniaMichael Jackson, Papa Wemba, Koffi Olomidé or Manu Dibango… Surrounded by love, the kid grows upright, with a Cameroonian mother, who regularly returns to the country, a “heart dad” who takes care of him during his absence, and a caring father-in-law.

The American dream”

As a teenager, he and his family went into exile in the United States, to try to live the “American dream”. Direction Virginia, Maryland then Delaware. Her mother, a hairdresser, opened her own cosmetology school, her father, an import-export businessman, developed his business. James, too, cultivates his “dream”. In the mythical era of the NBA, he sees himself “professional basketball player”. Alas, it lacks the spark: Rather introverted, unlike 100% of my African-American colleagues, I lacked self-confidence. In the USA, even the most mediocre of players develops mental capacities, superior to mine.”

At the same time, he cultivates another love, for music and production. Introduced by a friend to the art of sampling on his Playstation, on software such as Music Generator or Fruity Loops, he tinkers with sounds. At the University, he learned audio recording, and collaborated with local artists in Washington, until one of his productions fell into Akon’s ears… The machine got carried away. He soon works for Puff Daddy, Ja Rule, Snoop Dog…

Quickly, however, the “American dream” is cut short… I signed a first official contract, but after a year I was faced with the realities of a recording industry in crisis, he said. The projects did not succeed. I was asked to account. I told myself that, despite my collaboration with stars, I was not going to find myself there. That it was a lark mirror… I returned to France.”

find a father

This choice also resonates with a discovery, which turns his life upside down. As he launched into music, his mother confessed to him: his biological father was none other than the prodigious Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango. At first, tells James, I did not try to contact him. And I set up a defense system. I was afraid of this truth…”he said.

Until that day when, back in France, he came face to face with him in a Parisian hotel, before meeting him again, at the Midem, in Cannes. My heart was beating hardhe says. II was overwhelmed with emotions! What was weird was finding myself face to face with this person who looked like me: same stature, same arch, same smile… I didn’t introduce myself.”

In the aftermath, James calls his mother, to ask her advice. She breaks down in tears: Go meet your destiny.”. This resulted in a father-son story of great richness, which lasted eight years, until the disappearance of Dibango.

In this relationship, James found his voice and his signature: his musical identity.

“Manu told me his story through his songs, like Douala Serenade. Thanks to him, I reconnected with my African roots”, he confides. This year, moreover, with great emotion, James BKS left to play in Cameroon, for the closing ceremony of the CAN. “VS’was ultra symboliche said. I couldn’t release my album without this return home!”

The first part of his double-disc, Wolves of Africathe “African Wolves”, like an animal awakening, ultimately reflects this multiple history.

His hip hop tracks mingle with his father’s legacies: bikutsi, makossa, afrobeats, Swahili and South African songs, percussion… With, in featuringthe rapper Q-Tip, the English Little Simz, or the icon on the title Jungle go DumbJames BKS releases a rich record, with multiple routes, an album that hits hard, very hard.

“After losing Manu, but also my father at heart, I tell my story there, driven by this need to transmit what I was able to experience: all the rich and complex love that I received, from a mother and three dadshe says. I had a Jewish father-in-law, a Protestant mother, a father of Catholic hearts… I deliver here an album of emancipation. A photo of myself, a snapshot with this desire to leave this testimony to my four-year-old son…”. James BKS, “Best Kept Secret”, this “best kept secret”, now appears in full light.

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