J.P. Bimeni & The Black Belts - Free Me (LP)
A royal refugee turned soul survivor
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”.