JP Bimeni and the Black Belts – Free Me

Album Review | Tucxone | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 3/5

There are certain hints of Otis Redding and Al Green in the singing style of Burundian-born, now London-based JP Bimeni, a soul survivor in the truest sense of the term. Whilst fleeing his devastated home during the Burundian civil war in the early 1990s, Bimeni was shot, had his last rights read and remained on a wanted list, yet through all this has managed to survive, through convalescence in Nairobi, living as a refugee in Wales and then moving to London, where he has managed to carve out a niche for himself in the Motown and Stax grooves of the Sixties. Written by musical director Eduardo Martinez and songwriter Marc Ibarz, the soul-fuelled album is very much about the dance floor, though the lyrical content is about survival, relating to the essence of Bimeni’s experience of living through civil war and the haunting legacy of the Hutus and Tutsis conflict, which included witnessing the murder of many of his schoolmates at the age of just 15. With titles such as “Pain is the Name of Your Game”, “Better Place” and “Free Me”, we can only scratch the surface of Bimeni’s experiences. The music though, is the key to personal survival – “When I sing I feel like I’m cleansing myself: music is a way for me to forget”.