Photo: Tomoko Suwa Krull
Name, where are you from?
My full name J.P. Bimeni and I am from Burundi originally but live here in London now with my family.
Describe your style in three words?
Afro Soul with a drizzle of funk.
What’s the best gig you’ve ever been to?
Fat Freddy’s Drop. New Zealand band. I have known about them from the early days. And to see them at Koko’s, when they were starting to gain a bigger audience, it was simply magical. Trippy even.
If you could be on the line up with any two bands in history?
Bob Marley & The Wailers: I never of tire watching them on videos. It’s powerful every time I watch a live video and imagine being there. It’s the power, mysticism and sheer drive and commitment to something bigger than Marley or the Band. Second band? Otis Redding.
Which Subcultures have influenced you?
New Age: it has broadened my perspectives about the world, people and the spiritual realm. Musically, a bit of everything. Reggae, soul, rockabilly, rock troubadour.
If you could spend an hour with anyone from history?
It would probably have to be Mandela. I am from an African country, Burundi, with a disastrous history of civil wars. Mandela mediated the warring parties which led to peace accords then. But our region is still up in turmoil.
Of all the venues you’ve played, which is your favourite?
Jazz Café in Camden. I have had memorable times playing there over the years and the place keeps changing. I guess it’s the emotional connection I have grown to have with the place. And also because growing up on the music scene and you get to play Jazz Café is considered a big deal and for that I am grateful.
Your greatest unsung hero or heroine in music?
Maxwell, Carleen Anderson, Roots Manuva, Omar, Paul Weller... so many.
A descendant of the Burundian royal family, Bimeni fled his country aged 15 during the 1993 civil war. He was given refugee status and fled to the UK where he’s remained ever since. Originally settling in Wales he was able to buy records the first time in his life, discovering the music of Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Bob Marley and Marvin Gaye.
With classic 60s-sounding Motown and Stax-inspired grooves, his debut album Free Me was written with musical director Eduardo Martínez and songwriter Marc Ibarz, creating songs of love and loss and tragic experiences.
Bimeni's fans include such soul tastemakers as Robert Elms, Craig Charles and Keb Darge.