French-born Cameroonian producer James BKS’ music is a meeting point between traditional African rhythms, choirs and avant-garde urban sounds. His new single “No Unga Bunga”—released today via Idris Elba’s 7Wallace label doesn’t shy away from this.
“No Unga Bunga” is the first track off his forthcoming EP, set for release in 2021. It touches on self-belief, heritage and grief, with a sample of the Super Beagle classic “Dust A Sound Boy” looped throughout over James BKS’ signature sound rich in percussion.
“No Unga Bunga’ is a gathering cry and a message to face adversity by standing proud, strong and united. With the sad loss of his father Manu Dibango to COVID-19 earlier this year, James BKS grapples with continuing and embracing his father’s legacy, In “No Unga Bunga” he goes, (“Mama said go be great, bloodline royal in your vein”), while also reflecting on his career as a DJ, producer and songwriter.
Director and photographer Mahine SEF has brought to life a rhythmic and intense music video with inheritance and legacy themes as central. With dozens of artistic references, Mahine is a name to remember in the French audiovisual landscape. He has collaborated successfully with French and African artists such as DJ Arafat, Runtown and Memphis Depay.
James BKS is the leader of a mixed and eclectic community in the music video, leading us to a post-apocalyptic universe where life no longer seems to exist. Yet energy and hope emanate from this nation where several portraits are superimposed and give life to an urban and modern setting filled with Africanity, an implicit representation of James BKS’ multiculturalism.
The notion of movement is explored through the presence of the Guinean dancer and contortionist Abdoulaye Keita. Luka Austin, French krump champion, lends himself to the game of choreographer accompanied by members of The Vipajiz (Parisian afro-urban dance group) who emit a communicative energy. We also find out the beautiful Senegalese model Mame-Anta Wade, muse for Rihanna (Fenty) and YSL. A young girl rises and shines on the screen, she is the symbol of the handover and the legacy message precious to James BKS. The 12-year-old dancer Elysha, is already very popular on social media.
The song ponders his internal battle and his desire to stand on his own and create his own lane. James BKS explains, “This song is about me embracing my path no matter how hard or long the road to success might be. ‘No Unga Bunga is about heritage, not material things but what is truly meaningful and precious: education, love, lessons, advice, time”.
James’ music is a perfect crossover of his African roots (a nod to his father, the legendary late Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango) and urban hip hop sensibility – having grown up in the US and produced for the likes of Talib Kweli, Snoop Dogg, and Mr Eazi as well as French music icons Booba and Soprano.
James BKS is a unique artistic figure. His music, like his person – two inseparable entities as they reflect each other – are the fruit of an unusual initiatory journey, between acceptance of Cameroonian roots long ignored and the discovery of an innate talent for music production. A unique and singular entity, James BKS’s project reflects his passage from the shadows, as a producer, to light, as an artist in his own right.
Carrying meaning and a movement that goes beyond his person, the music of James BKS, unifying by nature, unites around causes that connect people of African descent as well as all those who wish to reconnect with their heritage. A producer for a time, he developed his paw and cut his teeth with renowned urban figures. As an artist today, he relies on independence by setting up his structure, a creative house welcoming his own artistic compositions.
James had an unexpected reunion with his biological father, Manu Dibango (celebrated Cameroonian musician, songwriter and instrumentalist who played the saxophone and vibraphone). His heritage has additionally influenced him to compose music, between hip-hop sounds, African percussions and pop melodies – that reflects on his identity.