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Kwabs doesn’t just sing, he pours his soul out. His voice is a richly textured, a deep baritone that rumbles and reverberates and full of gravitas, an instrument of both power and vulnerability. You can feel the audience hold its breath as his voice rings out effortlessly across East London’s sold-out Wilton Hall. The cheers between songs, are as hearty and excitable as the most loyal of fanbases. This is exceptional, given that Kwabs has released only a handful of songs to date. But then, he is an artist with an exceptional potential.Contraband are a booking agent for Kwabs and you can hire Kwabs for your corporate event or private function. Booking Kwabs for your next big event or party will guarantee to make it a memorable one.
Born Kwabena Adjepong and raised in Bermondsey, his musical education was a wide-ranging one. Having studied blues at school, where his precocious vocal talent first emerged, he listened to a variety of music from classic soul (Aretha Franklin, Donnie Hathaway) to alternative groups (The Strokes) to innovative electro-pop (Hot Chip). But Kwabs was initially inclined towards the rhythms and the improvisational scope of Jazz and he won a place at the Royal Academy of Music, one of the most prestigious hothouses of young musical talent in the world. This is a remarkable feat for a kid from a South London comprehensive whose childhood had been spent in and out of state care. “It’s almost scary, how do I fit into all this?” Kwabs remembers of his initial days at the academy. “When you walk around the halls and hear what people are practising, you realise this is the next generation of talented musicians”.
Halfway through his course, though, Kwabs’ own muse began to lead him down a more leftfield route. “I always loved soul and gospel, but I thought it would be cool to apply that voice to a different backdrop,” he explains. “I never wanted to do anything that was throwback or backwards-looking.” The idea of blending traditional, formally honed technique with experimental, forward-thinking beats appealed to Kwabs – particularly in terms of framing the unignorable strength of his voice (he laughs that, in an age where many male singers opt for tremulous falsettos, his job is to represent for baritones everywhere). “A lot of modern music doesn’t leave a lot of space for the most natural version of the voice,” he says. “On old recordings, the space wouldn’t be filled with extra frequencies that make you want to either push harder so you can be heard or change the way you sound to cut through better.”
One of the most important elements in the music to Kwabs and his collaborators, is space. On Last Stand, produced by SOHN, digitally layered harmonies are set over atmospheric synths and the barest heartbeat rhythm; Kwabs’ main vocal line is stately and unhurried, patiently prowling the low notes and swooping up to the high ones. The song builds up to its emotional climax gradually and almost imperceptibly. At the same time, the vast acres of air in the track Spirit Fade provide room for all sorts of engrossing details – an acoustic guitar riff, the echo of an organ, odd echoing percussion – as well as Kwabs’ own presence. “With the sparser stuff I’m doing, I feel more freedom,” he elaborates. “It enables me to sing the way I want to – it’s the most honest way I feel I can be heard.”
The track Spirit Fade was produced by The Invisible’s Dave Okumu – a man who has been coming into his own as one of the most impressive innovators in British music over the past two years, with productions for artists like Jessie Ware, Ghostpoet and Lulu James demonstrating the wide scope of his ideas. And Kwabs credits him for helping him find his artistic voice. When the two men met, they discussed about their common tastes, interests, all the expected subjects in a collaborative relationship – but Okumu also dug a little deeper.
Going deep has paid off for Kwabs, and those experiences have been poured into his songs. With a complicated past behind him, he has plenty to write about.
With Kwabs’ voice prominently placed, his emotion comes through defiantly and with immense authority. He showcases his vocal span to breath-taking effect on stage. From the energetic house propulsion of Saved to his astonishing recasting of James Blake’s The Wilhelm Scream – and, as an encore, the delicate Perfect Ruin, performed against a stark backdrop of upright piano, which reduces the audience to pure reverence. Kwabs has come at a time of immense creative fertility in British electronic soul – and has grabbed the attention of some of the scene’s biggest names. Both Emeli Sande and Jessie Ware have taken to twitter to express their support of him.
Contraband is the UK’s top booking agent, with friendly, experienced account managers who guarantee you the best deal possible. Kwabs is available to book for a variety of corporate events. We work in direct association with his representative as his preferred booking agent.
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