James BKS: 'I have deep respect for the work of my father, Manu Dibango'

James BKS: ‘I have deep respect for the work of my father, Manu Dibango’

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After composing for others, James BKS released “Wolves of Africa”, a first 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 the general public in 2018 with his single “Kwele”. An album that he co-wrote with African, American and European artists, such as Idris Elba Idris, Q-Tip, Allan Kingdom or Little Simz.

Born in 1982 in France, Lee-James Edjouma, alias James BKS, was 19 when he emigrated with his family to the United States. He dreams of becoming a basketball player until he starts fiddling with virtual instruments and music software during a university course. Since then, this passion for composition has not left him and has allowed him to work for the greatest American rappers, such as Ja Rule, Puff Daddy or Snoop Dogg. While under contract at Universal, the young artist nevertheless lost his soul and his freedom there.

A crucial encounter

He decides to return to France and start from scratch. And it is in a Parisian bar that he meets in 2012, completely by chance, his biological father who is none other than the famous Cameroonian saxophonist and singer Manu Dibango. His mother had only revealed the name of his parent to him a few years earlier when she had understood that he was taking his musical career seriously. The young man had however not wished to meet him.

“I met him late, in the evening of his life, tells RTS the musician passing through the Paléo festival. We were lucky enough to spend seven years together which changed my life and which, I think, gave him , also allowed to see that there was a certain continuity. It was something that was very strong.”

The two men go on tour together, the opportunity for the son to embrace a Cameroonian culture and origins that he knew little about. “What is interesting in the way we got along musically is that we were equals. He saw me as a musician. We talked about music. He respected my background. He let me do it and he gave me some advice. He was so kind,” recalls James BKS.

Inspired by his father

And when he announces to his father that he feels ready to embark on a solo project, the latter slips to him with a sidelong glance: “well, well, it’s not too early, son”. Manu Dibango will not have the opportunity to see the culmination of his boy’s first album, swept away by covid in 2020 at the age of 86. And yet, it is present implicitly on this disc which skilfully mixes traditional African music and urban rhythms. Whether it’s on the song “Panda Nija” they composed together or on a sample of the song “Kwele”.

>> To see and listen to: the song “Pana Nija” by James BKS (feat. Gracy Hopkins)

A tribute that also passes, in a subtle way, through the cover of “Wolfes of Africa” ​​where James BKS takes the same pose as his father on the album “Wakafrica” ​​where his body was positioned in such a way as to represent the African continent.

The cover of the album “Wolfes of Africa” ​​by James BKS released in 2022 and that of “Wakafrika” by his father Manu Dibango, released in 1994. [DR]

“I was inspired by what he gave off, by his story, 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 done in again. I have deep respect for what he’s done.”

Radio subject: Michel Ndeze

Web adaptation: Andréanne Quartier-la-Tente

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