Image by Kyle Weeks
The Belgian hip-hop scene genuinely doesn’t get its proper due Stateside, perfectly evidenced by the lack of recognition for the brilliant Liege collective Starflam – who’ve been recording since 1998 (and just admit it, you’ve never even heard of Liege, right?).
Former member MC Balo now goes by the nom de guerre Baloji, which actually means “sorcerer” in Swahili – though big fan M.I.A. describes him more humanly as, “modern, self-sufficient, with a middle finger attitude.” He was recently to be found working his wizardry again, with his excellent 2018 album 137 Avenue Kaniama – his first in eight years, released via Bella Union. And BlackBook premieres here this enthralling new remix of one of its best songs, “L’hiver Indien” (“Indian Winter” to those of you who’ve forgotten all your French.)
The already hook laden Afro-calypso track is given an exuberant uplift, which, ironically, makes it the perfect track to soundtrack moments of unfettered springtime exuberance – despite its serious subject matter.
It also notably features venerable Rwandese writer-artist Gael Faye.
“It’s a melancholic, feel-good Afro-disco track inspired by the 70’s Zimbabwean funk sound of Chicken Run,” Baloji explains. “The song is talking about different refugees’ perspectives on exile and isolation as the lyrics suggest – ‘deserter seen from homeland’ – and the difficulties adapting to the long European Indian winter.”
If this weren’t enough, Bella Union is re-releasing 137 Avenue Kaniama as Baloji originally intended it, as a one-track mixtape, on May 3 called Kaniama: The Yellow Version, featuring songs from his recent short film Zombies. And he’ll be doing select live dates in Europe and the UK throughout May.