The circumstances were not lost on me. I was giving the long anticipated second Michael Kiwanuka album a first listen under an African sun, on the veranda of a lovely little flat in the Fields Of Life Guest House in Kampala. Kiwanuka was born in London and raised in Muswell Hill but his parents were from Uganda. As the strident Black Man In A White World kicked in I realised that I was listening to a Ugandan boy making sense of living in another world.
Now, I have to say that I liked Kiwanuka’s first record but felt that it lacked something. It was too straight. Too predictable. It seems that Kiwanuka felt the same and almost gave up music as a result.
Love and Hate though is sharp and dynamic with edge, ingenuity and soul. Imagine Curtis Mayfield and Donny Hathaway got blended through an early 1970’s George Harrison production. The most influential actual producer at work is Danger Mouse who has worked across the genres and brings an eclectic and on the cusp of what’s happening sound to Kiwanuka’s songs.
In amongst near psychedelic electric guitar solos (I mentioned George Harrison) and the use of Gospel choirs (George Harrison anyone) Kiwanuka writes about the personal, the social, the spiritual and the political (just like George Harrison!!!).
You get my opinion. Goodness me, listening to the strum of Rule The World and you could be forgiven for thinking you had switched albums to Harrison’s Living In The Material World! If George Harrisonleft The Beatles in 2016 he would come up with something like this.
Kiwanuka’s reinvention was a musical highlight of my summer. Beneath the blue skies of a Ugandan July my body and soul were moved by the grooves of Cold Little Heart, Black Man In A White World and One More Night. Suddenly Michael Kiwanuka has the musical sparkle to set off his soul voice and quality songs.
Kiwanuka has spoken about the songs on Love and Hate being about his doubts, of faith and vocation and sense of self. Ironically that uncertainty has led to the most confident of albums.