Ray Lema is one of the most remarkable musicians on today’s world music scene combining jazz, world music, rock and classical styles in his music. Born in Congo, this musician first studied piano in a catholic school in the capital Kinshasa, before being inspired by Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and The Beatles to pick up the guitar. For performances in Kinshasa’s clubs he accompanied musicians such as Tabu Ley Rochereau, Abeti and Papa Wemba at the keyboard. In 1974 he travelled across the country as Director of Zaire’s National Theatre and as talent scout, in order to record and study the music of more than 250 native ethnic groups, as well as discover new talent in preparation for the founding of the Zaire National Ballet.
A number of years later, Ray Lema founded the fusion group Ya Tupas. Due to a performance ban under Dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, Lema went to the United States in the late 1970s where he studied recording technology, also devoting himself to the mix of American music styles and for which, in 1979, he was awarded a Rockefeller Scholarship. Since the early 1980s he has lived in Europe and is currently based in Paris. Lema is primarily a pianist but is also a multi-instrumentalist, playing also drums – often in the complex diverse rhythms of his homeland, which he mixes with European harmony. His numerous albums have won him international acclaim. In addition, Lema also composes film and theatre music and major concert projects such as a show by Alain Laugenie on Arthur Rimbaud.