Kiwanuka

British-Ugandan artist Michael Kiwanuka sets aside self-doubt and reclaims his identity in his self-titled third album, ‘KIWANUKA’ (yes, those capital letters are significant). For an artist well-known for struggling to embrace who he is, it feels as if Kiwanuka is finally shouting “this is me, take it or leave it” from the rooftops, and we applaud him for this.

There is a sense of confidence that passes through each track, as Kiwanuka tackles both the personal and the political over soulful grooves. ‘You Ain’t The Problem’, the bold opener, is quick to address racial discrimination and is ultimately a testament to Kiwanuka’s self-affirmation. “No need to play myself/No need to die/I’m only human”, he sings.

With statements of “it don’t bother me” and “shine your light over me”, ‘Light’ reveals a recurring theme – Kiwanuka becoming prouder of his background and present self, “All of my fears are gone.”

Kiwanuka’s newfound self-awareness makes for an album that is emotive, inspired and hopeful; a soul man wearing his heart on his sleeve!

Kiwanuka incorporates musical elements of jazz, rock, soul, funkadelia and afrobeat, and uses plenty of old-school guitars, pianos, harps and horns to create a collection that is elegantly layered and expressive.

‘Rolling’ is cheerful, whereas ‘I’ve Been Dazed’ lugs around an emotional weight, with Kiwanuka singing: “I need peace of mind/Help me carry on.” ‘Piano Joint (This Kind of Love)’, nestling in the middle of the album, shines with sincerity and narrows in on Kiwanuka’s vocals – “Sadness and fury is all I know.” Cue in the dream-like piano line and hint of strings, and one is presented with a track that exudes such pureness, that it’s impossible not to be moved by it.

Kiwanuka’s newfound self-awareness makes for an album that is emotive, inspired and hopeful; a soul man wearing his heart on his sleeve!

(Image courtesy of NPR/Sam Butt)

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