Brighton Magazine

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Selected Brighton Magazine Article

Tuesday 22 September 2020

Michael Kiwanuka Talks Mercury Nominated Third Album Ahead Of Rearranged Date @ The Brighton Centre

Mercury Prize 2020 shortlisted Kiwanuka looks inward and out, across widescreen sonic landscapes constructed in recording studios in London, Los Angeles and New York, and provides a showcase for the honey-poured mahogany of Michael Kiwanuka's voice.

Credit Olivia Rose

It skilfully crosses the streams of the personal and the political. No other name would really have done. 

The self-titled record usually marks a definable phase of a musician's career; an embrace of personal mythology, perhaps, or merely a shift to 'take me as I am' straightforwardness. 

But Kiwanuka, the single eponymous word that heralds Michael Kiwanuka's Mercury Prize nominated third album, holds a resonant, complex significance. 

It signals, for one thing, a swift, pointed rejection of the stage personas that artists have historically donned as both a freeing creative mask and a protective shield. 

It is an act of cultural affirmation and self-acceptance: a young British-African, contemplating the continued struggle for racial equality, and proudly celebrating the Ugandan name his old teachers in Muswell Hill would struggle to pronounce. 

It is a nod to a suite of arresting, ambitious soul songs that – while they deftly recall the funkified epics of artists as varied as Gil Scot-Heron, Fela Kuti, Bobby Womack and Kendrick Lamar – cement the singular, supremely confident sound that made 2016's Love & Hate such an undeniable step up. 


"I remember when I first signed a record deal, people would ask me, 'So what are you going to be called?'" laughs the man himself, considering the thought process that inspired the title. 

"And I never thought of that; calling myself Johnny Thunders or whatever, like singers from the past. 

"But I have thought previously, would I sell more records if my name had an easier ring to it? 


"So [on this album] it's kind of a defiant thing; finally I'm engaging with who I am and I'm not going to have an alter ego, or become Sasha Fierce or Ziggy Stardust, even though everyone's telling me I need to be this, that or the other. 

"I can just be Michael Kiwanuka."

Surveying his current career standing Michael concludes: 

"The last album came from an introspective place and felt like therapy, I guess.

"This one was a bit more about feeling comfortable in who I am and asking what I wanted to say. 

"Like, how could I be bold and challenge myself and the listener? 

"It is about self-acceptance in a bit more of a triumphant rather than a melancholy way."

Michael Kiwanuka at The Brighton Centre on Saturday 3rd April 2021. CLICK HERE for tickets. 

by: Mike Cobley & Jimi Famurewa




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