[Click play to hear our interview with Jaja – January 4, 2017]
If you are looking for Congolese music in DC, you definitely will want to check out Jaja Bashengezi, who’s life story is matched in its intensity only by his musical talent and positive outlook. Born in the city of Bukavu, eastern Congo, Jaja and his ten siblings cherished their mother’s nightly fire-side songs and stories. After finishing his schooling, rumors of ethnic violence and chaos further east turned to frightening reality as warring factions descended on his home, forcing Jaja to flee as a refugee to Uganda with nothing but his acoustic guitar and music in his heart. These have been his tools of survival ever since, from Kampala’s nightclubs to world stages in Europe and now in the US where he tours with some of the biggest names in African music: Vieux Farka Toure, Fatoumata Diawara, Samba Mapangala, Kinobe and more. Congolese music in DC now has a new sound as Jaja has released an intimate, acoustic solo album, Ndule, which showcases his journey, his never-ending musical curiosity and of course his deep talent. He treated us to two live songs in the studio, and we chatted about his life and work. It’s always inspiring to see such grace in an artist with so many gifts!