Since winning the BBC’s Sound of 2012 award in January, this year has been a long one on the road for Michael Kiwanuka. And finally, last week on Wednesday, a nine-month tour that started with a gig in Copenhagen’s Vega drew to a close at the very same venue.
“It’s been a great tour,” the blues/soul singer told The Copenhagen Post. “Even when there are only ten people in the room, you still get this great reception from the crowd that makes you realise why you started playing music in the first place.”
There was no risk of low attendance at Vega, however. Scores of people crammed themselves into the stands, terraces and seating area at the back of the venue, just to get a glimpse of the man heralded as Otis Redding incarnate.
But it’s not just Kiwanuka’s smooth and yet rusty voice that is causing people to sit up and listen. His blend of jazz drums, simple melodies and high-fret bass lines brings a sound of up-tempo blues, putting everyone into a trance-like state with their eyes closed, slowly shaking their heads.
It’s obvious that Kiwanuka draws a huge amount of inspiration from the 1970s and 80s. His incredible cover of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Waterfall’ was a testament to the influence Kiwanuka draws from those decades. Yet, his inclusion of background synthesisers and bongo drums delivered a feeling of wholeness that wasn’t often found in the ‘70s, which is what makes Kiwanuka different from his inspirations.
Kiwanuka particularly shone when alone with bassist Peter Randell on stage. The duo performed ‘Lassan’ and ‘Rest’, which thrived on the simplicity of the bass and high chords on the acoustic. It was in those instances that Kiwanuka’s voice fulfilled its simplistic brilliance and left the crowd swaying.
“When people think about ‘the black music’ scene, they often think of rap and R’n’B,” Kiwanuka explained. “But what they tend to forget, is that 30 years ago it was the likes of Marvin Gaye and Jimi Hendrix who defined black music in its entirety. That’s the music that I associate myself with. And that’s the music that I want to bring back.”
And as far as The Copenhagen Post is concerned, we hope he does.