Photo: Liam Sheehan
Uganda is the world’s newest hotspot for emerging artists. Kampala native mwami comes from a region full of young DIY artists, such as Lagum, Josh Forehead, and Ceee. Creatives from this area are increasingly able to share their often unheard opinions with the world as music platforms evolve. Similar to other artists’ music coming out of this region, mwami’s debut EP, protean, doesn’t fit into a traditional genre. His experimental, off-kilter dance sound is inspired by his own personal sensibilities rather than what he has seen done in the mainstream.
The second single and first track on the EP, “diego,” has an unapologetic, brash, and dramatic intro. The indistinguishable lyrics were inspired by the sonic likes of Swiss rapper Slimka. mwami recalls the time when he first listened to the rapper and how the indiscernible sounds influenced his sound,
“I was very much moved by their sound, style and energy without knowing a great deal of what they were saying. While [‘diego’] went on to have its own style and sonic influence, I wanted it to still resonate with whoever listened despite the inability to come away from it with a simple meaning.”
As the EP progresses, the overall sound softens. “rektless” has an undeniably clean dance beat with incognito vocals. The visual piece for this song was shot by mwami and his friend Spacegray while they were in college, utilizing b-roll shots of friends at miscellaneous basement raves around campus. The lo-fi film shots align perfectly with the infectious beat.
The transition from “rektless” to “restless” is arguably the greatest transition I’ve ever heard. The track includes an excerpt from “Home” by Ozwald Edihki and a smooth saxophone in the distance. The song fades out just as quickly as it intensifies. The song is so lively that each time I listen to it, I find myself focusing on something different. Whether it be the lyrics, the composition, or the background vocals, it’s all brilliant.
The EP closes with the vibey R&B cut “sweetooth.” If one could manifest the perfect summer day at the park into a song, this would be the product. According to mwami, the song was first produced in Brooklyn in 2017 with Lagoon Lou (Uganda) then recorded in 2018 at home. Like “sweetooth,” the other four songs on the EP were a collaborative effort between mwami and his myriad of friends around the world: Val (Nashville), Yoshii Swxdn (Poland), Nyah Bear (Milano), GB Mystical (Syracuse), Isaac Lewis (Pittsburgh), Freesia Flow (Kenya), and Connor Barkhouse (Los Angeles).
As sharing music becomes easier, more and more silenced voices are able to be heard. In the coming years, artists like mwami will help expedite the movement to globalize nontraditional music. I’m positive this multidimensional creative will never leave your radar once he’s on it. With a couple months left in 2019, mwami is gearing up to make 2020 all about him, and I cannot wait.
Listen to protean below: