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.
, the single eponymous word that heralds Michael Kiwanuka's
Mercury Prize winning 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 20th May 2022. CLICK HERE for tickets.