Listening to Kiwanuka’s debut album, ‘Home Again’, brings about memories of a music store I visited some time back. It had all different kinds of new music on the ground floor, just like any record store these days. However, in the basement hid a collection of old jazz classics along with carefully selected cult films and books. Not only could I see ‘Home Again’ being one of the albums that this music store would play, but the composition of the store assimilates to great extent Kiwanuka’s music.
Apart from the cult films and books perhaps, it is the jazz classics that form the foundations in Kiwanuka’s music, and which also touch upon issues of identity and belonging, issues that are reciprocated in his songs. But what he manages to create is a decidedly original sound in the modern soul and folk scene today, which, if we are to trust in the BBC’s Sound of 2012, looks very promising for the future.
Even though Kiwanuka grew up in North London he struggled for some time to realise where he truly belonged. Arguably, listening to Bob Dylan, Otis Redding and other iconic singer/songwriters in his youth helped him find a voice and a way to fit into society. It is, I realise as I listen to his songs, through music that he understands himself and his surroundings. It is a place of solace and comfort, belief and faith, where he is permitted to write and sing songs which are nostalgic of the past as well as strikingly present. If you’re looking for an album bursting with pain and anxiety, this is not it. Kiwanuka’s voice is full of reflective, ruminative soul which is his first and foremost strength throughout the album. However, after the strong first track “Tell Me A Tale”, I feel that the album longs for a finale where the borders of time are finally disintegrated. It is a shame that the last tracks cannot answer for this.By Kristina Astrom