2 // BFM 2014 // Kwabs x Otis Redding

Posted on February 2, 2014

You know the part in the movie when the Otis Redding song comes on, and you were close to faking it like you’ve got it together but the soundtrack lilts in, and all of a sudden you’re sobbing into your Sour Patch Kids? Getting snot all in your butter flavored popcorn. You know how Otis has this uncanny ability to undo you, even when you think you’ve managed to hold the tears at bey? That’s how I feel when I listen to Kwabs. That’s how every one of his sad songs keeps keeping me coming apart at the stitching.

Above, he’s covering James Blake’s The Wilhelm Scream, which, reader, I’m starting you on because sometimes folks need a gateway from the known to the unknown. But there’s this song he sings — this sad, aching, blues he carries in this white room, along with spare piano. This song Getaway, which pulls me to my favorite box of kleenex quick fast and in a hurry.

The Ghanaian Brit, Kwabs, has released a number of Youtube videos, has a robust performance schedule in the UK, but has yet to make the rounds on a stateside tour. His carefully crafted lyrics, almost haunting baritone and penchant for no frills production draws me in. Every time I listen I find myself hovering over a system of questions: What is or must be experienced to create Blues and Gospel? How did Kwabs come by it? Certainly, traditionally black American forms travel well and are easily adopted by blacks in Diaspora, but also, what of the Ghanaian experience is built into what Africans stolen to America infused into the roots of our music to begin? That is to say how much of African American music was African to start, and how much of it is tied to pain crafted in the “new world”? Or or or  —  or this question — is the process of a black Ghanaian (or his family) emigrating to a colonial power like the UK enough to bring the cultural melange, experienced grief and practiced assertion of self that Gospel and Blues merit? And then the question that quiets my mind down long enough to go back to listening: Why do I care?  Is the music good? Does it make me feel something real and lasting. It does.

Much like this here Otis Redding song. About a sad song.


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