Next Wave #1136: Kwaku Asante

Soulful riser unlocking unexpected parts of his heart...

“If I want to be the most authentic type of musician, who can make the best records that touch people, I just need to embrace how I feel and work through it, develop and not be afraid of trying new things.”

Pushing for a more polished, universally connected strand of UK soul and R&B, Kwaku Asante is putting his best foot forward. Growing up in a musical household, the charismatic North Londoner prides an ever-growing pool of influences, from the sounds of Ghanaian highlife, to Lauryn Hill, Robin Thicke, D’Angelo and Radiohead. Reflecting on his time spent in academia, where he investigated the representation of gender and sexuality within Black popular music, the riser is challenging the boundaries of self-expression. “There are some things that are more welcome than others. In my dissertation I found this was definitely linked to stereotypes which have been formed through slavery and prejudice.”

“Imagine not being able to unlock a completely different side of you, it hinders the level of music you can make…”

Perhaps this offers a backdrop to the singer-songwriter’s latest project, ‘Blue Solstice: Volume 2’, a slick collection of tracks that hold the intensity of a spontaneous, ticking romance. Although a departure from the more subdued, emotional outpour of last year’s EP ‘Wanderlust,’ Kwaku presents his vulnerability through a more jovial, laid-back perspective. Take ‘Until The Morning’, a bright, groovy offering that spotlights Kwaku’s rich tones, yearning for his love interest to ditch work and savour their time together. Indeed, beneath the music is a moment of light-hearted escapism, a glimpse away from today’s fraught social climate. “I feel like there’s a trend on platforms like TikTok where every song has to be heart-wrenching. Sometimes a song can just be about me and a girl at a bar, we talk for a bit, you feel like you’re in love for an evening, and then you go home from the bar. It ain’t gotta be deep all the time!”

Yet, it is method and structure that draw the music together, a remedy Kwaku uses against the idleness of writers’ block. “For me, just relying on being inspired leaves you waiting for inspiration”, he remarks. Speaking on his creative process, the riser details: “It’s like an essay, you describe, explain and summarise. I have key words or lines that I want to say throughout, and I link them together through how I’m feeling. I borrow a few pop culture references, talking about certain brands of drinks or clothes to make it more unique to you.”

Following a series of sold-out shows, a standout COLORS performance and touring with the likes of Pip Millet and Samm Henshaw, it’s fair to say that Kwaku is comfortable onstage. Alongside his band, the artist seeks to elevate his material one step further through “reimagining the songs slightly to give the audience that comes an experience that’s not going to be experienced anywhere else.” Turning to address his future crowds, he asserts: “You’re here. You’re gonna feel it.” 

What: Soulful singer-songwriter
Where: North London
3 Songs: ‘Until The Morning’, ‘Strawberry Skies’ and ‘Wait For Me (Promise)’’

Fact: Kwaku Asante incorporates a reference to his favourite film, The Matrix, in every project.

Words: Ana Lamond

Join the Clash mailing list for up to the minute music, fashion and film news.