‘Kiwanuka’ is an inspired, groundbreaking piece of work, seeing British-Ugandan artist Michael Kiwanuka exploring and embracing who he is – a journey of both self-discovery and self-acceptance.
The project’s full of soul-drenched songs, some with a funk element, powered by production from Brian ‘Danger Mouse’ Burton and British hip-hop producer Inflo, this making for an expanse of different sounds to match Kiwanuka’s wide-ranging lyrical inspirations.
Opener, ‘You Ain’t The Problem’, addresses racial inequality and attitudes towards immigration (“If you don’t belong, you’re not the problem”); ‘Rolling’ is joyous, whereas ‘I’ve Been Dazed’ has a more dream-like, gospel rock feel, with Kiwanuka’s soothing and soulful vocals: “I need peace of mind/ Help me carry on”.
‘Piano Joint (This Kind Of Love) - Intro’ feels decidedly contemporary while simultaneously drawing influence from the likes of Motown influences, the intro building suspense and anticipation, before dropping into something both sincere and romantic.
It’s a track that feels very pure in its production - the focus on Kiwanuka’s vocals, and the unexpected introduction of a harp. Despite some romantic moments, he doesn’t doesn’t shy away from the tough stuff. ‘Another Human Being’ contains a sample of human rights campaigners, while ‘Hero’ references police shootings in the US (“on the news again, I guess they killed another”). Despite these difficult topics though, Kiwanuka’s music is always uplifting. Even ‘Hero’ has some joyfully razzled guitars.
Michael Kiwanuka has undoubtedly created a timeless album, one made with impressive confidence.
Words: Narzra Ahmed
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