Coup de ♥️ #4 : Exclusive Interview with Lokua KANZA - Release of his 7th album "MOKO" on June 4th.
Updated: Jun 7, 2021
© Photo : Marabout
I'm going to tell you the story of a 7th album, which saw the light from a voice which remained silent to our ears for 11 years ! 11 years, or should I say 8 years, the time to refine this divine wonder, with the taste of eternal honey, in the company of a hundred and one bees spread over our planet. The story of a mischievous sage, my guest of honor today : Mr. Lokua KANZA. Dear friends, let's take the time -a break around a campfire ! Let us suspend our occupations and follow the journey of Lokua KANZA, this great traveler who sails to souls… At the end of the road, for reward, "MOKO", a powerful and deep album, an album where the invisible becomes visible and where even the sirens are spellbound ! Come on, now is the time to listen to it...
TYNDIAYE: Dear Lokua KANZA, hello, I am so happy & excited to welcome you on the blog “Coups de cœur de TYNDIAYE”, where we like to meet musicians and artists from around the world. I have known you for a very, very long time, it goes back to the concert where you were the guest at the Francofolies de La Rochelle (France). I was a fan from the very beginning and interviewing you today is a dream that comes true !
So, you won't escape the tradition, with our now famous, recurrent questions.
Here is the first one.
At the end of this beautiful month of May and a very special period of gentle exit from our 3rd lockdown, what is your voice telling us about you ?
Lokua KANZA: My voice tells all the hope for everything to get better. It was a very difficult time for everyone. There are a lot of people we have lost, who have left. At the same time, and this is my point of view, it allowed us to revisit life differently ! It gave us a “very small lesson”, this pandemic. The period of confinement made it possible to return to the essentials of life. We finally realized that there were things much more important than our beautiful "cars", millions on the accounts..., we realized that we did not need everything, as this is not the most essential.
© Photo : Marabout
T : Thank you Lokua, in this peculiar period that brought reflection, what have you been doing?
Lokua KANZA : Wow ! Honestly, I'll start with the bad things. I struggled to compose, I thought it was hard, that it was an almost "creepy" moment. Usually, I like loneliness when it's not forced on to me. But, when you're confined with the ban on going out, suddenly, I didn't have any inspiration, I didn't have anything coming out. And that's when you realize that inspiration comes from life. The people you see, the children playing outside, the old people walking, etc.
All of this is inspiring. In fact, I got back to the guitar a lot more, to the technique, to the piano ! And I'm learning to draw.
T: Wow ! Was the drawing a desire for a long time ?
Lokua KANZA : It started just a few months before the first lockdown, which gave me the opportunity to get started.
T: Without being too nosy, what kind of drawing ?
Lokua KANZA: Actually, I don’t know how to draw, I'm learning. Right now, I'm on Pinterest, trying to reproduce drawings of faces. It's not pretty yet ! (laughs)
T: This is normal, you are learning ! (smile). This must be great for you, because I thought I read somewhere, that you have always been a curious person, who loves to learn ! Also, to open yourself up to this path while waiting for the exhibition, it's great !
Lokua KANZA : Oh the exhibition is not for now ! And yet, I've already been offered one, but I don't feel ready !
T : (laughs) There, I agree, it's a little early ! At the same time, what I know about you, what I observe about you, what I feel about you is, if you will allow me, what I call "a little brain on foot" ! You go fast, you capture quickly ! So I won’t be surprise to see an exhibition soon ? (laughs)
Lokua KANZA: I love to learn, it's true. We are perpetual students. Honestly, since I started drawing, it boosted me ! By learning every day, I feel, for example, that the lines, the perspectives of my drawings are changing and evolving quickly... It is nice !
© Photo : Marabout
T : Your energy travels up to the end of your pencils... Your journey, Lokua, is just atypical, incredible. I know that you have been told repeatedly about it, about your country, about your life in Kinshasa where, I believe, you will be returning very soon. While remaining in the spontaneity, what would you like to tell us of the essence of this incredible journey ? That of the man, the young man, and the child that you were.
History in your luggage, your essentials...
Lokua KANZA : Wow ! From the young man…, he is a young man who had many dreams ! At the same time, I liked a lot of things around me and at the same time others I didn't like ! I told myself that maybe I couldn't necessarily change things, but that I could bring a kind of a “new taste” to what was going on around me. I grew up with this dance music, ubiquitous all the time ! And I thought to myself that there are surely people who want to hear something else. Because, I grew up with both urban music, it's true, but also with traditional music. With people who at the time came after work to sit down and sing incredible, beautiful, deep, spiritual songs ! And it touched me so much. I thought to myself : "Well, how can I make this music in my own way ? "
I grew up with a challenge, telling myself that I could introduce music other than the one you hear every day ! I wanted to mix it up, make something new and at the same time, mine. And I dreamed with all my heart to play all over the world, in venues where there are 100 people listening to me ! Except I didn't know God had bigger plans for me, like concerts with 20,000 people in some places. So, I think the young man was ambitious (smile) !
© Photo : Marabout
T : At the same time we hear a wise and noble ambition. What triggered this ambition in terms of music choice ? It could have been sport, for example...
Lokua KANZA : That’s true. There were two moments. The very first was on Sundays at church where there was a choir with about 50 children ! I was overwhelmed, it was beautiful, magnificent, a power, a force that intertwines when they sang together ! I went to see the conductor of the choir and told him I would love to be a part of it. He offered me to try. After listening to me he said : "yes that's okay but it takes practice”. This is where I started.
But the real trigger, at least for my career, was when I was 13 years old. It was at the May 20 stadium, we called it "Tata Raphael" at the time. I listened to a fabulous woman named Myriam MAKEBA. Despite my young age, I fell in love with the woman, the artist, the character ! I found her extraordinary. I didn't know someone like her, at least in the Congolese culture, the African culture that I listened to a bit ! There I was like ; I want to do like her and that's how it really started.
© Photo : Marabout
T : We can feel the basis on which you were built, this encounter with Myriam MAKEBA, with whom you subsequently worked, it is just magical I think ! We will come back to the countless people with whom you have collaborated below ! Precisely, you just told us about the young man. How do you define the artist that you have been since ? For example, imagine you are your best friend, what would you say about yourself ?
Lokua KANZA : Well, no one has ever asked me that question ! I will say that "Lokua is very curious. He has this bad habit of wanting to do things differently from what exists, at least from what I see of him ! And every time there is a new way everyone follows; he leaves this way and will explore another one. I invite you to look at his albums, from the 1st to the 7th, he has never made an album like this !” And, I sometimes find it a bit slow (laughs).
T : Slowness in itself is a real virtue ! Anyway, thank you for telling us about Lokua. When you say that you are going against the wind, wouldn't it be rather to be in constant listening to the world in which you find yourself, which resonates, which lives ? You represent diversity, you are a bridge builder and a humanist. Earlier, very humbly, you were talking about what drives you, what you feel through your songs, your music. You have such a love for people and mankind, you believe in a Smart World that would work with its differences, and you embody that in your titles ! So, when you talk about going the wrong way, let me contradict you and suggest that your wrong way is the result of what you are feeling from your heart ?
What chemistry do you use Lokua ?
Lokua KANZA : The alchemy of love. You said a very important thing, I love people, I don't hide it, I claim it. And nature has also helped me to love humans even more. I have had this chance to travel the world and go to places where no one knows me and / or maybe just by name ! And to fill theaters, where people discover my music and watch these people cry, laugh, who are not necessarily black and I think, that goes beyond what I had hoped for. When I see that, I tell myself that we are one person, we have differences, different opinions, but deep down, we somewhere have the same essentials, the same desires. Then there is ignorance, the fear of the other that we do not know ! For example, we say to ourselves "oh he/she is black, he/she is yellow..." and that triggers fear.
I've noticed that when you travel a lot, you don't look at others the same way. They have a sparkling look, which exudes love, they are no longer afraid of people. All of this inspires the artist that I am.
© Photo : Marabout
T : In addition to all that, can I dare to say that you are on a mission ?
Lokua KANZA : I wouldn't dare say that to everyone, because people will look at me very badly. :) I have always considered that when I play music and when I make music, I feel that it is not me.
T: I understand.
Lokua KANZA : I feel that it is something else, that it is another power which enters me, which makes me say things ! I am a channel that God, or as you want to call it, allows me to be, to give people love, joy, reflection. And I take this role very seriously. Therefore, when I make music, I try to go beyond what we hear, from what we see, because I grew up in an environment where people made music, but not for the money. These are people who were my age today. I listened to them when I was 12-13 years old, they took me on a journey. I would go far away, and they would seek deeply inside myself, in languages that I did not know. I am in a country where several languages are spoken. They were using vocal techniques that did not exist and I try today in my own way, to say to myself : "How am I going to be able to go and touch the human without him knowing my language, without him knowing the music I make." Just go find these internal things that you can't explain. This is what I am trying to do.
T : Your popularity is beyond belief. How come, when you don't know the language, that it affects so many people ? It is this vibration that spreads out. When I was talking about the Alchemist that you are, it is because you have this extraordinary trick/magic, to assemble all your ingredients on each album and extract pieces that give us the shivers ! You give, you carry your voice, without any stakes, we even have the feeling that if there is only one person hearing you, it is already great. And we understand that you are not a guru, far from it ! On the contrary, you express : "Here is the music that I propose to you, its message, what you will do with it then belongs to you" !
© Photo : Marabout
Let's talk about all the amazing collaborations you have made ! I have a vision of you, Lokua, who left Congo a long time ago, and as you met people, you landed, and things were created in the moment. Then you go on your way and so on.
Of all these experiences so far, who is Lokua today ?
Lokua KANZA : My encounters with others are for me an incredible chance, a gift from the Gods ! To be able to step into someone else's sphere, into someone else's atmosphere, into their world, into their environment, is a gift the other gives you. Afterwards, it's up to everyone to say to themselves "what am I learning", because inevitably you learn something from any encounter. What do you take, what do you keep and / or don't keep ? Very early on, I had people calling me for their records ! All these requests were both a chance and they helped me assert myself, especially at the beginning, you doubt about yourself so much ! And seeing the reaction of others to what I was producing gave me wings and allowed all the collaborations.
T : Before discovering your last album, I listened to the song « Tout va bien » on Youtube. Over 229,000 views to date, well done ! This song gave me the excitement. How magical these three little words are...
So, "MOKO" is your 7th album and will be officially released on June 4th. It was an honor to have the exclusivity to listen to it ! Thank you.
Lokua KANZA : I am a little bit stressed to see the critics. (laughs)
T : Without any detour or ambiguity, I give you my feelings after having listened to it repeatedly, in the subway, while cooking, while working : "MOKO" is the album of the apotheosis, a mature album, where the we feel that you are having fun. That you created it with great freedom and lightness. It feels like you've created the album that perfectly translates who you fully are, of everything you've been through, lived, and with everyone you wanted to surround yourself with. It is like a precious concentrate of all "you". We can feel your joy in giving.
The songs follow one another with obviousness and borrowing all our emotions. It is at the same time festive, bewitching, serious, joyful, it invites to dance, to pose and to receive.
© Photo : Marabout
"MOKO", what does that mean, what does it mean to you ? What is the story and journey of this album, Lokua ?
Lokua KANZA : The album "MOKO" means "One" in Lingala ; unity at the same time. Because, as I truly believe in humans, I wanted something very unifying that brings everyone back to a single table to be able to discuss, exchange, communicate and at the same time, this album is really a child's dream. I wanted something that was big compared to the great musicians, to all these people who had incredible journeys. To be able to put it together in one album and to be able to really have a moment of exchange. That's why I've been to 12 countries around the world, that's why there are over 100 musicians playing in the album and all of them are really into the service of the songs.
T : For the last 8 years, you took this time to write, to meet the artists who contributed to the birth of this album, what can you tell us about these people around you on the album ? Those that you have chosen wisely, which are not necessarily only musicians or singers but as your sound engineer, your son for example ?
Lokua KANZA : Indeed, on this album, there are not only musicians, not only directors, but there are also sound engineers, in this case my son called Stephy LOKUA, who worked for 6-8 years with me. It was our first real collaboration, him as an engineer and I as an artist and not father and son. Well, like all father-son relationships, this is never obvious, anyway there are beautiful things, but also times when we got a bit sintered. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve had these kinds of little psychological fights, but I think it was all about finding your bearings. After that it worked. Then, there were other sound engineers with whom I worked, like Jimmy DOUGLASS, who is one of the greatest engineers in the world, who worked with Jay-Z, Beyonce, The Rolling Stones… There is also Liam NOLAN, who in England worked with Ed Sheeran, Adele… Dave DARLINGTON in New York, who has made over 3000 mixes to his credit, with huge names ranging from John Legend to David Guetta… and other sound engineer around the world, in Congo, Nigeria and Senegal where I traveled. There are photographers, cameramen… There are lots of people on this album ! I really thank them all because everyone contributed in their own way to the development of this album and I hope with all my heart that people will understand this and feel the magnitude of what I wanted to give them as a gift.
© Photo : Yves CARPENTIER - FRANCOFOLIES de SPA - Belgique
T : What are the themes that are close to your heart, that you like to explore in your songs, and why ?
Lokua KANZA : In my songs the main themes are love and hope. Also in this album I had the opportunity to go to Doctor MUKWEGE's Panzi hospital. It was a very intense moment, difficult but beautiful at the same time, because listening to all these unfortunately raped and abused women was hard. Doctor MUKWEGE told them : “Tell Lokua your story, because Lokua has this possibility to be able to sing, to speak for us around the world. "I came out of there really upset and I composed the song called" KENDE MALEMBE ", which I dedicated to all these women to encourage them to move forward and especially to ask all these people that hurt the woman to stop. Because the day I was there I felt so bad, I was ashamed to be a man that day. So honestly "Wow", it wasn't an obvious moment. So, there are several themes, hope often comes back and I'm talking about the people we also neglect in the streets, the left behind… There are really several themes in this album.
T : At a time when borders are slowly re-opening, in which country would you like to put your bags ?
Lokua KANZA : There are several countries sincerely. First Congo, of course, and then I will say Ivory Coast, for a lot of reasons. The first time I traveled outside my country to stay for a long time was in Ivory Coast. I was so touched by the welcome, by the people, by the food, by the women, but above all by the hospitality of the Ivorians. It was something unsettling but good for the heart.
T : What inspires you in life ?
Lokua KANZA : For inspiration, as I have started to tell you, there are a lot of things that really touch me. My inspiration can come from a child who laughs, who smiles in the street, it can be of old people who have a tenderness towards each other despite the weight of the years, it can be lovers, birds, or water… Sometimes it can even be a tennis game that touches me and inspires me, that brings me emotion. The emotion within me, or at least the inspiration, comes from a lot of things not just one.
© Photo : Marabout
T : What drives you always further Lokua and why ?
Lokua KANZA : The engine, in my humble opinion, which pushes me further is music. The love of music. In my childhood, I have always been fascinated by people who know their art. People who know how to touch humans through a sound, through a note… I find that fabulous. So, every day I wake up and try in my own way, to be able to go as far as possible, so that I, too, can touch people.
T : What man are you 2021 ?
Lokua KANZA : That’s a big question ! I don't really know who I am...
But I'll say I'm different from the age I'm starting to approach. I don't have the same vision as when I was young, where I was rushing like crazy. Instead, now I'm starting to think to myself, "What am I left to do ? How am I going to do it ? ". I think more of transmission, at least with the little knowledge that God has given me, of telling myself how I can transmit it to the new generation. How to rest too because it's something I've never really done in my life. I think the body is starting to talk to me, to hold me to account and I would have to pay attention to that too.
T : What will be your next step ?
Lokua KANZA : My next step, if God permits of course, will be to perform more, around the world, in order to be able to offer, share this album "MOKO" and also find myself in this environment that I love so much, to communicate with the public. Planes, on the other hand, I like less (laughs). Because I think with age, I don't have that strong taste like I used to, when I traveled I was quite happy and proud as a kid. Today I think I prefer the times when I'm on stage, although before and after it's not easy.
© Photo : Yves CARPENTIER - FRANCOFOLIES de SPA - Belgique
T : What would you say today to the little boy / the little Lokua that you were ?
Lokua KANZA : When I look at the little Lokua that I was, I find that he was persevering, because it is not easy to believe in yourself, to have the faith of what you want to do when you are a child and that we have a long road ahead. And then, all the people around, who tell you that the music you make in relation to the environment has no meaning, that you will never go far... Until you arrive in Paris and bring your model to a record company and tell you that the music you make is neither for blacks nor for whites… If you are not strong enough mentally, you can sink. So, I think I'm going to say Bravo to the little boy : "You've been persistent".
T : What are the three inspiring words of the moment that you would like to share with our readers ?
Lokua KANZA : The three words I would like to say are "Tout va bien." (Everything is fine)
"Tout va bien" is not only the title of my single, but it's mostly what I'm thinking now. We have very complicated times, there is the pandemic, disease, war in the east of my country… There have been a lot of deaths. There was also the eruption of the volcano, people had to move… When I made this song, it was just to say that despite all this, life is beautiful, that we can believe in it, that we can smile. I want people to keep their spirits up so they can face life, because there are also beautiful things. So, it's all right.
T : Dear Lokua, what a pleasure it has been to share this precious moment in all simplicity with you. We could listen to you for hours. Thanks also to Stephy, your son, for hosting us for the interview. We look forward to seeing you soon on stage and on the air, in the meantime...
Lokua KANZA : Thank you, TYNDIAYE, for listening to me and for this exchange. See you soon.
© Photo : TYNDIAYE - Selfie avec Lokua - 27 Mai 2021
Dear readers, I invite you to listen repeatedly to "MOKO", an album of freedom where each note resonates with a different message to our ears.
Once again, at the risk of repeating myself, I, who usually like traveling without leaving, I have the sincere feeling of having taken a direct flight to the musical sphere! With the option to travel through life, to these subtle sequences cleverly orchestrated as evidence, of each piece.
Bravo Mr. Lokua KANZA, see you soon on stage.
Layout : Cynthia Akel
Translation : Sebastien Lapray