Ray Lema was born in Central Kongo (Zaire). At age of 11 he entered the minor seminary of the White Fathers to become a priest. Fates decided otherwise and they to initiate him to the organ and the piano and studies, Gregorian chants, Mozart, Chopin, Bach and Beethoven.
After independence from his country, Lema left the seminary and joined the University of Kinshasa, where he studied chemistry. The piano being difficult to find he decides to play guitar and started working with the famous singer « Gérard Kazembe and his Jambo-Jambo Orchestra ». Thanks to him he discovered the great Congolese music who make at the time, Tabu Ley Rochereau, Kabassele, Luambo Makiadi, etc.
In the 1974 he was appointed Music Director of the National Ballet of Zaire with the mission to recruit and manage the traditional musicians and dancers of the National Ballet. This experience changed his life and his vision of music. in 1979, after a violent disagreement with the presidency of dictator Mobutu, he responded to the invitation of the Rockefeller Foundation and went to the United States. His departure also marks the beginning of a brilliant international career.
Curious of all musics, precursor and always ready for all musical experiment, Ray Lema became famous in the mid-80s in the World Music. He participated to various collaborations from Stewart Copeland, Tony Allen, the Bulgarian Voices, the Chamber of Orchestra Sundsvall in Sweden, Chico César and the Jazz Sinfonica Orchestra from São Paulo, Manu Dibango and...
In parallel of these albums he composes regularly for Theater and Movie trails and has received several awards for his entire career (including a Django d’Or). Music education in Africa remains a priority and he frequently organizes workshops with young musicians and produces many artists of his continent. Recently he become initiator of the African Music University and is working on the establishment of a « Pan-African higher school of music on the mainland ».
Now he is appointed spokesperson for UNESCO and to the council "Africa 2020" within the framework of the year of Africa, sponsored by the French President E. Macron.
On stage, Ray Lema gives concerts of piano solo, or piano duets with the French/American pianist Laurent de Wilde, he performs in Afro-jazz quintet or with a vocal trio from Congo.
Always open to new musical encounters, he frequently plays with Symphony orchestras (Brazil, France, China, Cuba).
Last June in Khinshasa he pays tribute to the mythical group of the Congolese rumba "Le Tout Puissant OK Jazz" during a concert in front of 5,000 people. This event, filmed and recorded, will be available in 2020.
He is currently on tour with a symphony orchestra in Germany and on summer tour in the Jazz Festival in France with a jazz quintet.
2018 : « Transcendance »
2016 : Ray Lema & Laurent de Wilde « Riddles » (One Drop & Gazebo/ L’autredistribution)
2016 : Ray Lema quintet « Headbug » (One Drop / Rue Stendhal)
2015 : Ray Lema, « Nzimbu » (One Drop / Rue Stendhal)
2013 : Ray Lema Quintet « Very Special New Production-VSNP » (One Drop/RueStendhal)
2011 : Ray LEMA & Jazz Sinfônica (CD/DVD) – (One Drop/Rue Stendhal)
2011 : 99 – (One Drop/Rue Stendhal)
2006 : Paradox (Laborie/Naïve)
2004 : Mizila-Piano solo (One Drop/Nocturne)
2003 : BO de « Fatou la Malienne » et « Fatou l’Espoir » - (2 good)
2000 : Safi – (Buda Musique)
1998 : The Dream of the Gazelle (Detour / Erato)
1997 : Stop Time (Buda Musique)
1996 : Green Light (Buda Musique)
1994 : Tout Partout (Buda Musique)
1992 : « Un Touareg s’est marié avec une Pygmée » (Label bleu)
1992 : Euro African Suite (avec Joachim Khün) – (Buda Musique)
1990 : Gaia (Mango)
1989 : Nangadeef (Mango)
1988 : Bwana Zoulou Gang1985 : Medecine (Celluloïd)
1983 : Kinshasa – Washington DC – PARIS (Celluloïd)
1982 : Koteja (Celluloïd)
SCORES FOR CINEMA AND THEATER
2016 : « Bienvenue au Gondwana » ( Mamane)
2005 : « Villa Belle France » - (Karim Akadiri Soumaïla)
2004 : « Fatou l’Espoir » - (Daniel Vigne)
2002 : « Little John » - (Cheick Fantamadi Camara)
2002 : « Afrique je te plumerai » - ( Jean-Marie Terno)
2001 : « Fatou l Malienne » - (Daniel Vigne)
2000 : « Moi et mon Blanc » -(Pierre Yaméogo)
1994 : « Ker Jo Ouakam » - (Taïeb Luihichi)
1985 : « Balck Mic Mac » - ( Thomas Gilou)
2014 : « Une nuit à la présidence » - (Jean-Louis Martinelli)
2010 : « Ithaque » - (Jean-Louis Martinelli)
2004 : « Cocody Johnny » - (Souleyman Koly)
2003 : « Médée » - (Jean-Louis Martinelli)
1992 : « Un touareg s’est maré avec une pygmée » - (Were-Were Liking)