Chapters Of My Life - Moken

Bantu Records

Project Runway fans know the competing designers have mad skills. They can take pocket change and turn it into haute couture on a dime. But, the best moments from the reality TV series are the unconventional challenges where the designers are taken to a hardware, grocery or pet store and asked to transform everyday items into high fashion. The lengths to where creativity and talent can take a person are extraordinary. Moken is such a talent. The bohemian fashionista from Cameroon also creates at an accelerated pace.  He grew up listening to music from several of Cameroon's ethnic groups. "I'd run up the hill to dance with one tribe and then run down and dance with another." he recalls. Duality is one of his musical design signatures. "My voice came from Van Morrison and from Nina Simone. Put it together with Manu Dibango and you get me." Moken is hard to get, right out of the gate. In reality he sounds like neither of his inspirations; a disturbingly baritone bleating one moment and an over the top falsetto vibrato the next. There is no ambivalence to Moken's unique delivery. You're either enchanted or mildly repulsed at first listen. But, Moken's designs deserve repeated screenings. Chapters of My Life is quirky only to accentuate the humanity of the tales it tells. He came to Detroit, lived out of his car, was accepted to design college and began his ascent into self-expression from the sidewalk up. Songs like Walkin Man and Machine Man define the experience of burning the candle at both ends for the sake of one's craft. But, the album is also a celebration, if not triumphantly absurd. An early fave is ' I Have A Bone To Grind With Einstein' in which Moken laments, mixed metaphor and all that the genius of space and time "stole my look, he stole my hair, he stole my mustache." Needless to say, Moken looks less like Albert Einstein than he sounds like Nina Simone, but that playfulness uplifts and smiles through the chapters of his debut. We meet Moken on the cover photo, looking like he just arrived on earth from a Flash Gordon convention. It's high fashion and highly unconventional. There's much room in music for global interlopers like Moken.