Like almost all groundbreaking artists, MichaelÂ KiwanukaÂ makes politics personal and the personal political. In his songs, as in the world at large, it all connects. If you take away one thing, the other thing turns insignificant.
At the same time, he seems more and more at ease with being just himself. Even if this means he has struggled with questions concerning identity and self-image. With every new record he lets loose of his musical influences and becomes someone who adds to the tradition as well as the present.
Michael Kiwanuka’s full-length debut Home Again (2012), which went gold in United Kingdom but also France, Norway and the Netherlands, echoed Van Morrison, Bill Withers, Terry Callier and the 70s sound of analogue. It resulted in a tour with his pal Adele and a win in BBC:s Sound of 2012 poll. The sophomore effort Love & Hate (2016) was something completely different. With assistance from producer Danger Mouse, the London born singer raised the stakes and got the best possible outcome in its socially conscious lyrics, more progressive music, a general conviction that instinctively grabbed the listener’s and an even bigger audience.
On this year’s Kiwanuka, he takes it a step further. Here he’s all his own, liberated and spellbinding in a low-key kind of way from start to finish. His show at Göta Lejon in Stockholm last week was an instant classic. The performance at Way Out West on Friday August 14 could become one too.
The first song Koffee wrote was a tribute to Usain Bolt: “If the times get slower and yuh start get old, mi still remember yuh story”, she sang in Legend, which turned into something of a viral sensation. Considering the subject choice it shouldn’t perhaps come as a surprise that her career since then has moved as quick as lightning. Not only is the nineteen-year-old one of the brightest stars in Jamaica today, she also has got an international fan base that is growing fast – and hardly slowed down by her appearance on the remix of the Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber collaboration I Don’t Care. Alongside artists and role models such as Chronixx and Protoje (she’s toured with both), Koffee is now one of the leaders of the current roots-reggae movement.
She grew up as Mikayla Simpson in Spanish Town about an hour outside of Kingston. In the home her mother played a lot of old school soul music such as Etta James and Aretha Franklin as well as Jamaican reggae giants like Bob Marley and Dennis Brown. Koffee’s music is irresistible, energetic and features razor sharp lyrics. In the title track of her debut EP Rapture, released earlier this year, she says: ”Koffee come in like a rapture” – a statement impossible to question for someone who’s seen Koffee perform on stage.