In the midst of it all

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It’s not common to find artists capable of making your soul dance as much as your body. Reinel Bakole is one of these exceptions: the super-talented Belgian writes songs that connect people, minds, and worlds. Her recently released debut album Healing Exhaustion brings soulful vocals, jazzy rhythms and experimental sounds together, digging deep into the artist’s personal history and roots.

Reinel will be one of the stars to light up the stage at COOL Festival (23-25.02.2024 at Het Depot, in Leuven), together with Dushime, Les Amazones d’Afrique, iced lattina, and many more. We met with her to learn more about her music, her new album, and what to expect from her set.

So Reinel, how do you feel? Where do you think you are in your path?

I guess I’d say that I’m in the midst of it all. It doesn’t feel like a beginning or an ending, I’m really in the middle of a lot of things, a lot of discoveries and lessons. Some things are becoming more natural for me, some others are new. I guess it’s an exciting moment, very inspiring. 

Your first album, Healing Exhaustion, is finally out. As for the rest of your art, it seems to be really influenced by your roots and experiences: can you tell us how they impact your creative process?

I’m Congolese, born and raised in Belgium. It’s kind of like having the grace, the challenge, and the fun of two different heritages. At the same time, I’m only in my 20s, so I’m still discovering a lot of things, and I don’t have it all figured out about my identity, where I come from, where I want to go… I’m really in the midst of it all. I’m trying to understand what I like and what resonates with me in both cultures, what brings me interest or curiosity, and what moves me. I try to understand what I can question, innovate, redirect, use, or transmit. There are a lot of possibilities when you have this kind of background.

I’m Congolese, born and raised in Belgium. It’s kind of like having the grace, the challenge, and the fun of two different heritages

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This connection with your heritage, with yourself, and with your listeners seems incredibly relevant to your music.

Deeper and meaningful connections are really important for me; they made me who I am. The people that I have met, with whom I have this kind of connection, really built me. As I say in one of the tracks Roots & Wires of the new album: ‘It took a village to be me’. You cannot go so far or build something so strong if you don’t have a community. To do so, you have to be able to be intimate and vulnerable and to connect on a deeper level. This is how I navigate the world in my life, it’s not easy but I try.

Is it possible to find meaningful connections even when art and business start to merge?

Luckily, I'm very well surrounded. At the beginning of my career, I was somewhat naive: I had this ability to get in contact deeply with a lot of people, very quickly. Then I became older, and I understood how to manage my energy and how to protect myself, as not everyone has good intentions. I’m not more closed, I just slowed down my process of getting connected to people. I’m more aware of myself and the things that really intrigue me or attract my interest.

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Did you form many of these connections in Brussels and its music scene?

This album was very important to make my bond with Brussels and its scene stronger. I think I finally found a community. I was really craving that; since my teenage years, I was already on the move, constantly meeting people and then leaving. I missed an anchor point, to help me feel grounded and know who I can rely on. The musicians and artists with whom I worked on the album are really becoming my family. It’s so important to be friends and not just colleagues! It makes the job more fun. Having that kind of relationship in your journey is just so precious.

I think I finally found a community. I was really craving that, because since my teenage years I was already on the move, constantly meeting people and then leaving

Speaking of colleagues, are you excited to share the stage with so many talented artists at COOL Festival?

COOL is super cool. I was supposed to be there 2 years ago but it was cancelled because of COVID, and I think now it’s really the right time. I’m also very curious to discover a lot of new music.

What can we expect from your set?

I think you can expect a bubble.

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What do you mean?

When I perform, I’m really on a journey, so much so that it’s difficult for me to describe my shows. They’re immersive and super introspective, like a bubble. I just hope it will move people, and that they’ll get to travel with their own imagination. I love it when, at concerts, I’m struck by someone’s presence or by their music, and I feel like I’m with them every second while I’m also in my zone. 

When I perform, I’m really on a journey, so much so that it’s difficult for me to describe my shows. They’re immersive and super introspective, like a bubble

Are you already working on something new?

It’s weird, I just released an album but I’m super inspired to create even more. My unconscious mind is already working. I’m absorbing and transforming a lot of things, that’s fun and exciting. I think stressful times bring me to a specific state where I receive and also give a lot, sometimes unexpectedly.

So what is the next step for Reinel?

I was talking with some friends yesterday about how, when you put so much energy and spend so much time into something, it’s just hard to let it go. For me, it was like this with my album: once it came out, it was like a separation, like it wasn’t my album anymore. All the details, the sound, the mystery, are over. Now it’s time for me to be open to the unknown.

<img class="editorial-image-50-left" src="https://cdn.prod.website-files.com/61eebcc683107b99137f4423/65c3897dc92c6b7354937a51_(c)Melanie%20Musisi_DifferentClass35.webp"/>

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<div class="editorial-banner"> <div class=“editorial-credits”> @hetdepot / @reinelbakole </div></div>

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