For hist latest self-direct video, Congolese-Belgian musician Baloji has created a visual declaration about the zombie-fying effects of communication technology.
In this two-part music video, which he also wrote, art directed and styled, we first travel to a Kinshasa nightclub where the hypnotizing blue glow of cellphone screens compete with the dancefloor’s neon lights. Despite the presence of a playful selfie stick dance routine and comical crown forged of phones, this is a baldfaced commentary on today’s digital culture.
The Lubumbashi-born Baloji, who also produced this high-octane film, wanted to critique through satire what he calls the “self-imposed isolation” encouraged by mobile technology. “My phone as an extension of my right hand was an interesting angle to address some of the themes that fascinate me,” he says. “We have an almost carnal relationship with our phones.”
Moving from the club at nighttime to the street in daytime, a pensive trash-heap merman, spirit gods made of bottle lids and condoms, and an imaginary despotic politician are just a few of the characters that make up the video’s chaotic mise-en-scène. Baloji’s seemingly eclectic music tastes collide, slide and morph into each other as Africa’s biggest influencer injects afro beat with dance and funk, while also combining traditional tribal rhythms with clickbait-worthy lyrics.
Talking about the visuals that inspired the film, Baloji explains: “I was reminded of a photograph by John Stanmeyer of migrants on a shore in Djibouti—raising their phones in the air to try and catch a signal. This picture illuminates our relationship with our phones.”
Baloji’s self-taught visual artistry earned him the Best Concert prize at the 2018 D6BELS Music Awards in Belgium. This 14-minute music video gives the multi-talented musician and artist an opportunity to breathe life into his electrifying stage performances and set design.
The film’s soundtrack is taken from Baloji’s 2018 album 137 Avenue Kaniama, which will be re-released by Bella Union as a one-track mixtape, called Kaniama: The Yellow Version, on May 3.