Rough Trade's Albums of the Month - November
The latest great new soul voice, following Leon Bridges and Durand Jones
This is the first album from Burundian-born royal family descendant JP Bimeni who’s been based in London since the early 2000s. Musical director Eduardo Martinez and songwriter Marc Ibarz wrote the songs. His backing band are Spanish funk outfit The Black Belts. Horns kick off with a slick smooth James Brown slide of a funk-footed slick as all get out monster. Easy grooves are a rolling tide and a veritable force of soul/nature. Brass stabs accentuate the soul vibes alongside broken-hearted intros, tremeloed guitars and everything you love about the sounds of Stax, Motown and Atlantic’s 1960s output.
On his debut album Free Me, Burundian-born JP Bimeni astonishes with a voice that recalls Otis Redding in his prime whilst resonating with the soul of Africa. A refugee who’s been living in London since the early 2000s, Bimeni sings songs of love and loss, hope and fear, with a conviction that comes from the extraordinary experiences life has thrown at him.
A descendant of the Burundian royal family, Bimeni fled Burundi aged 15 during the 1993 civil war. Following three attempts on his life - at school he watched as his schoolmates were murdered, he was then chased by motorcycle militia-men and finally poisoned by doctors in hospital - he was given refugee status and fled to the UK where he’s remained ever since.
Music has provided the solace that Bimeni has needed to move forward with his life: “If I didn’t have music I don´t know how I would have survived everything”, he says. With it’s classic 60s-sounding Motown and Stax-inspired grooves the album was written by musical director Eduardo Martínez and songwriter Marc Ibarz and Bimeni imbues these tales of love and loss with his tragic experiences making Free Me a deep soul soundtrack to his pained life: “When I sing I feel like I’m cleansing myself: music is a way for me to forget”.
CD - Jewel Case.
LP - 140 Gram Black Vinyl with Download.