Michael Kiwanuka


This is not a shameless plug but a relevant anecdote: on the day of the Michael Kiwanuka gig, I had a show on Reform Radio and a live pianist was playing live. He planned to play a Kiwanuka song but not, as he informed me, ‘I’m a Black Man In a White World’, which might have been a little difficult to nail… considering Olli, the pianist, is a white man from Hertfordshire, but also because, vocally, Kiwanuka delivers that song with a clear eyed passion that is hard to replicate, although his voice has been compared with the likes of Marvin Gaye and Otis Reading.

Later that day, in the beautiful surroundings of the Albert Hall, Kiwanuka opened with ‘One More Night’ from his second album, Love & Hate, which truly blew me away, not just because of his beautiful, bluesy vocals, but because of the sheer spectacle of seeing a band of musicians at the top of their game, playing in the grand setting of the Albert Hall, most notably the drummers, of which there were two.

Last time he was in Manchester, Kiwanuka played at the Deaf Institute. I wasn’t there, but I’m guessing he didn’t have two drummers. And yet, despite the larger venue and set up, Kiwanuka seemed at ease in front of a sell-out crowd.

Although for me, the crowd seemed a little flat. Down the front there was little movement and in the seated area, people acted as though their seats were booked and failed to move when my friend and I asked if we could sit down. The soul of the audience didn’t seem to reflect the soul on stage, which was jarring to say the least; I’m not a massive fan of punk music, but I think at least punk gigs have an atmosphere which is helped along by a friendly, passionate and engaged crowd, despite the apparent aggression of that type of music.

Fortunately, we weren’t there to make friends, we were there to listen to a new talent in UK soul. He certainly delivered a polished performance, but, for such an exceptional talent, it felt almost…disappointing? Where was the alternative energy? Where was the experimentation with his vocal range? Perhaps I choose the wrong gig to be musically challenged but I still felt he could have pushed those boundaries a little further given the musical talents at his disposal and maybe that would have got the crowd going.

Michael Kiwanuka: Official | Facebook | Twitter

When people ask me what music I am in to, I find it very hard to give a definitive answer because, throughout my life I have been in to all kinds of music from House to Heavy Metal. So I can safely say I am open to most things however, I would say that overall my allegiances lie with Electronic music because it covers so many genres and is constantly developing and changing. Having grown up in Manchester my musical tastes have been influenced by nights such as Electric Chair and Mr Scruff which encompasses the sounds of House, Detroit Techno, Disco, Soul, Funk and Hip Hop. As far as bands are concerned, I particularly like bands that are melodic and have a hook and a heart such as Wild Beasts. While living in London in the early noughties, I was also listening to music that didn’t really have a heart, more of a pacemaker. I was listening to Electroclash at nights such as Erol Alkan’s, Trash. I love writing about music and believe you can be honest about why you don’t like something without being disrespectful, a skill I am still learning in real life! But ultimately I understand that music needs to be experienced first, rather than intellectualised but why do one, when you can do both?