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Somewhere in the sky, between Europe and Africa, a German fashion designer crossed paths with a Sierra Leonean writer. Love creates. What emerged was a living metaphor of this encounter. A life riddled with juxtapositions of humanity, and the love and spiritual presences that bind us.
Born in Germany, his name is Patrice Babatunde Bart-Williams.
Patrice. An ode to the slain Congolese leader.
Babatunde. A Yoruba name calling on the father’s return and a signification of our ancestor’s immortality. Patrice took his first breath on the same day that his African grandfather took his last.
Bart-Williams. A moniker exposing his family’s roots, creoles returning to an Africa, Sierra Leone, different from that which they were snatched from.
And then, Patrice turned 11.
“My quest for purpose and identity became a matter of survival. I was growing up in an environment where there was no one like me and where people acted surprised when they heard me speaking my mother tongue.”
His life had just been torn asunder. Gaston Bart-Williams, Patrice’s father, a writer and Sierra Leone’s first filmmaker, the man who’d prodded him to deliver beers to Germany stranded Blues great, Champion Jack Dupree, had died in a boating accident off the coast of Sierra Leone.
Surrogate father’s quickly consumed the world of the young one. Bob Marley pushed Patrice’s philosophies of love and righteousness while Bob Dylan gently encouraged his awareness of freedom’s responsibilities. 2 Live Crew rode with him on his skateboard, competing for space with Fela Kuti’s shrine and the Fugees ballads.
A year later, Patrice allowed his first song, “You Always You,” to escape his mind. Two years after this, an entire album fled.
“I always believed that my days were numbered, so I was in a big rush to get things done. My early encounter with death triggered something. An appreciation for life, the subject that became the main theme of my early work, up until now.”
Skipping from the school bench to the world stage, Patrice released his first EP and before graduation, walked across the stage to open for Lauryn Hill’s Miseducation Tour. He brought soul on tours with the original Black Eyed Peas, and once his album dropped, his career soared. His portfolio of music weaves aching blues, stirring soul, rebel punk and righteous reggae, leaving no room for labels.
Known more for his live shows, than anything else, people hyped Patrice by word of mouth alone. His live shows sold out without album releases. In the most unexpected places like Portugal or Romania 5000 people turning up and singing his songs word for word, as “Lions”, “Everyday Good” and later “Soulstorm” leaked across fan’s consciousness. That’s been the story of the growth of his music.
It’s a bootleg success.