Kwabs - Best New Music
Written for The Telegraph [29/9/14]
This London talent has a voice that could shake the earth
Who is he?
Kwabena Adjepong is a 24-year-old singer from south London blessed with an enviably powerful voice. After posting a number of YouTube covers online in 2012, notably James Blake's The Wilhelm Scream, he excited the ears of Atlantic Records. His first two "future" soul EPs, Wrong or Right and Pray for Love, were released on the label this year.
How did he get here?
He won a coveted place to study at the Royal Academy of Music after spending his school years actively involved in choirs and jazz bands. "I grew up listening to everything, being opened-minded and open-eared to any sort of music," he says. "Jazz, soul, funk, classical music - it's all part of what shapes my musicianship."
With his deep, melodic turns and sophisticated electronic backdrops, it's easy to lump Kwabs in with the current crop of male neo-soul crooners (Sampha springs to mind). But his earth-shattering baritone simply has no equal. SOHN played a pivotal role in developing Kwabs' early sound after "sparks flew" between the pair on a sunny meet in London. The Vienna-based artist and producer drip-fed his token chilly electronica to cool the warmth of Kwabs' voice, and the collaboration couldn't have been more perfect. Pray For Love EP and new single Walk hear a more pop-orientated sound emerging with piano-led hooks and lighter tones.
Who are his influences?
Hours upon hours were spent "getting to grips with my own voice", Kwabs explains, as well as listening to the music of Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and Ella Fitzgerald. His favourite singer of all time is Donny Hathaway. "His tone and his delivery are just beyond," he says.
What does he say about his own music?
"I think of it as being ultimately soul but it's music that throws back and throws forward. It's like taking from the things I love and that I've been listening to all my life while having a place in the future."
What can be revealed about his debut album?
Expected for an early 2015 release, Kwabs says his debut record will be a "continuation of a journey in many ways" but with "really exciting" new material. "I just hope I can keep this voice for as long as I can," he says. So do we.