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First Look: Michael Kiwanuka – ‘Black Man in a White World’

With a beautifully telling title, British soul musician Michael Kiwanuka’s latest single is full of poignancy and melancholy acceptance.

Having been a session guitarist for the likes of urban artists such as Chipmunk and Bashy, Kiwanuka was no stranger to the music industry when he decided to become a solo artist and subsequently release his first single in 2012, entitled ‘Home Again’. The combination of his evocative tone of voice, heartfelt lyrics and acoustic guitar was enough to make anyone hooked, including myself.

As the winner of the BBC’s Sound of 2012 poll and basking in the glory of being played on radio-waves across the nation, Kiwanuka enjoyed a four year break from his debut album and now he’s back and better than ever with ‘Black Man in a White World’. The single is taken from his upcoming May release ‘Love & Hate‘ (which has some pretty thought-provoking artwork, I might add) and is supported by a 2016 autumn tour (click here for dates).

The song itself is very simple and stripped back as most of it is a repetition of the song’s title alongside what sounds like a church choir. While the music may not be all that exciting, it’s the political message that really makes this song stand out.

In light of recent tensions in race relations, especially in America where young black men are five times more likely to be killed than white men of the same age, this song drives home the issue of feeling like an outsider, all while maintaining an upbeat melody. This single is an example of the right time and right place, as it is unbelievably relevant to the issues we’re facing in society today. Raising a public awareness of it is so important, so kudos to you Michael.

This solumn track, however, sounds like an acceptance of the situation and learning to cope with it as he sings: ‘I’ve lost everything I’ve had and I’m not angry and I’m not mad’. For me, this makes the song that more heart-wrenching, especially as the repetition acts as a type of depressing mantra.

All in all, this single gives us a taster of what’s to come; a more politically driven, somewhat bitter Kiwanuka and in all honesty, I can’t wait.


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