James BKS reveals his identity in full light – RFI Musique

Everyone was waiting for him on a firm basis last November. His concert at La Cigale, in the fall, during MaMA, a large gathering of professional musicians that brings together the cream of producers, TV stations, journalists, had the effect of a bomb, as a prelude to his first disc, which was to released a few days later. And then… silence. Turn around. Corridor noises prompted a change in etiquette.

To listen to his music, a precious mix of rap, African music, r’n’b, you had to wait a few more months. Today, James BKS explains: I would wait for the right moment. I accumulated experience on stage, I fed on the vibrations of the public. And then I’ll come back with a double album. In the second part, which will be published 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 basement recording studio in a peaceful street, a stone’s throw from the Gare du Nord. . With his gigantic stature, his huge high white sneakers, his opaque black glasses, James Edjouma, his real name, first strikes with his shy friendliness, carried by his bass voice.

Often in his smile appears the child he was, cradled by the music of France Gall, Michel Berger, Balavoine, star maniaMichael Jackson, Papa Wemba, Koffi Olomidé or Manu Dibango… Surrounded by love, the child grows upright, with a Cameroonian mother who regularly returns to the country, a “heart father” 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 is also pursuing 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 peers, I lacked confidence. In America, even the most mediocre players develop 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 university, he learned sound recording and collaborated with local artists in Washington, until one of his productions caught Akon’s ears… The machine was swept away. He’s soon working for Puff Daddy, Ja Rule, Snoop Dog…


However, the “American dream” is quickly interrupted… I signed a first official contract, but after a year I faced the realities of a record industry in crisis, he said. The projects did not succeed. I was asked for an accounting. I told myself that despite my association with stars, I would not find myself there. That it was a lark’s mirror… I returned to France.”

find a father

This choice also resonates with a discovery that turns his life upside down. When he started playing music, his mother admitted to him: his biological father was none other than the wonderful Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango. Initially, says James, I did not try to contact him. And I created a defense system. I was afraid of this truth…”he said.

Until the day when, back in France, he came face to face with him in a Parisian hotel before meeting him again at Midem in Cannes. My heart was pounding hardhe says. II was overwhelmed with emotion! The strange thing was to come face to face with this person who looked like me: same stature, same bow, same smile… I didn’t introduce myself.”

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

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

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

The first part of his double album, Wolves of Africathe “African Wolves,” as an animal awakening, ultimately reflects this diverse history.

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

“Having lost Manu, but also my father in the heart, I tell my story there, driven by this need to convey what I was able to experience: all the rich and complex love that I received from a mother and three fathers.he says. I had a Jewish father-in-law, a Protestant mother, a father with Catholic hearts… I deliver here a liberation album. A picture 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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