Burundian soul singer J.P. Bimeni – the royal refugee who escaped death more than once and has now found fame in the UK – has dropped the first single from his forthcoming album of the same name, Give Me Hope. As before, JP’s amazing voice channels Otis Redding in his prime, while musing about ambition, community and love.
Give Me Hope grooves between classic ‘60s Motown and Stax-inspired soul, psychedelia and Afro-funk and the singer’s deep consciousness is on full display, without losing pop sensibility. The second album follows on from 2018’s BBC 6 Music Album of the Year, Free Me.
A descendant of the Burundian royal family whose parents held opposing political views, Bimeni escaped his country aged 15 during the 1993 civil war and genocide. Following multiple attempts on his life, including being poisoned by doctors in hospital, he was given refugee status and fled to Wales. Soon after Bimeni’s arrival at Trinity College in Wales, a school for children who have escaped conflict and where he received a United Nations organised scholarship, Bimeni gravitated toward the music of Ray Charles, Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye and his idol, Otis Redding.
“Music is my great escape,” he says. “My debut album, Free Me, was me finally doing what I wanted to do and feeling like music is my freedom.”
“You realize that you have a platform that is much larger than you expected, so you have to question yourself: What am I trying to express? Who am I?” J.P. Bimeni
“I know people who probably deserve more than I do, but they didn’t have that chance,” Bimeni says. “I feel blessed to have survived and keep moving. But sometimes I feel guilty. This music is an exploration of my emotional journey to self-discovery and healing.”
Uplifting the album – released February – are the supremely funky title track and Mathematics, sounding like both Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings and Fela Kuti. His six-piece band, The Black Belts – Rodrigo Diaz “Niño” (drum & percussion), Pablo “Bassman” Cano, Fernando Vasco “Two Guns” (guitar), Ricardo Martínez (trumpet), Rafael Díaz (sax) and Alex Larraga (keyboards) – contribute their diverse musical backgrounds to the breadth of soul stylings on Give Me Hope.
Cop the new single or previous album on Bandcamp.