KUKU Interview by Tom Paul

KUKU https://www.myspace.com/kukumusic performed on a bill with me almost 2 years ago this summer at The Sugar Bar in NYC. His blend of seductive guitar playing and beautiful melodies melted with his songwriting skills had the whole room quiet like a pin could drop. Before he went on no one knew who he was and when he finished his set, everyone wanted to know how he was. KUKU has 3 releases to date which are his EP release in 2005 "Love Sessions", 2006 full length CD "Unexpected Pleasures" and his 2007 release of "The Absence of Cool".

KUKU moved to Washington, DC in 1993 from his native Lagos, Nigeria. After a few years of odd jobs KUKU picked up a guitar and started performing live at weekly open mic night at U Street in Washington, DC. His music grew and so did his fan base performing all around the country including The Kennedy Center in 2004.

KUKU’s music has been described as a mix between Bill Withers and King Sunny Ade. His music is enriched in soul and folk creating beautiful stories that have been keeping his fans coming back for more over the years.

KUKU has been touring to promoting his music and will be stopping in Brooklyn to perform at Frank’s Lounge on Saturday May 17th (see the e-flyer below).  You can read up more on KUKU and purchase his music at his website www.kukulive.com

TP: How has your touring around the country been going? What venues have you performed at recently?
KUKU: Being on the road constantly for the last few years has been a blast. I’m sure I can find a few unfortunate stories, some of which involves budget or lack of budget to support this troubadour lifestyle, but doing what I adore and seeing people react to it so positively is a blessing. I was in Atlanta GA a few weeks ago at a spot called Cenci. I’m actually on the road at the moment in Portland, Oregon, I played at 2 venues, The Mission Theater, and The Candlelight some days ago. I will be heading to Chicago’s Mercury Cafe to play a Multiple Sclerosis benefit concert tomorrow. I’ve shared the stage with some musical heavyweights at SOB’s in NY a little while ago, I launched my latest recording "The absence of Cool" at the Kennedy Center last October (21st 2007).
TP: How have the crowds receive your music?
KUKU: I’ve been blessed to have people to respond with enthusiasm to the musical interpretations of matters of my heart. It’s all part of "Unexpected Pleasure", I can understand when people don’t expect what they hear from me, we all have the tendency to judge a book it cover, not only Al B. Sure looking brothers can sing. I guess it’s refreshing to hear uplifting music from a brother that looks like a construction worker.
TP: When writing your songs, what inspires you to create these beautiful melodies and lyrics?
KUKU: I like to think that I was cursed with a talent of catchy melody, lyrically I just try to convey a message of intergrity. Great lyrics with sweet melodies is like delicious food that is visually as appealing. My native tongue/language, Yoruba is quite a melodic language, I like to think it’s part of the essence (lol).
TP: Do collaborate with other writers/producers?
KUKU: For the most part, I’m an isolated writer, my lyrics are my personal experiences. However spending time with a good brother and mentor of mine, singer/songwriter/percussionist, Vinx at his songwriter retreat has fostered some collaborative writing. In fact we cowrote a song along with singer Julie Dexter some months ago. The song will be on Vinx’s up coming box set album.
TP: Will we hear a full band CD on your next creative effort?
KUKU: I’m an acoustic artist at the moment, I love creating and hearing songs at their bare minimum. I’m a firm believer that a good song will translate well with little or no production. My next project, which is already in the works, is a more produced record but still minimal in arrangement.
TP: What musical influences have had the biggest effect on you as a musician?
KUKU: I grew up listening to the Philadelphia International, Stax, and Motown sounds. I learndt to appreciate my native musicians like King Sunny Ade, Fela, and Aruna Ishola a little later . I’m grateful for my some-worth multi-cultured background because I have the ability of both the urban soul singers and the tradition African griot singer.
In recent times Bob Marley, especially his "Survival" and "Kaya" album has been having a profound effect on me at my creations. His words are as authentic if not more than any religious scripture out there, it doesn’t hurt that the music was incredibly played.
TP: Having grown up in Nigeria, were there many music venues to perform at? When is the last time you performed in your native country?
KUKU: was not a musician when I lived in Lagos, Nigeria, I was teenage high school kid under strict parental supervision (LOL), all I new was school and home though my mother had her business around the corner from Fela’s Shrine. I visited home in 2006, which was my first time performing on my native soil. It was lovely reception.
TP: What is the music scene like in Nigeria at this time?
KUKU: Honestly, I don’t pay much attention to the Nigerian music scene. From the little I’ve heard, our ethnic originality is definitely an endangered art form musically. MTV and BET and a lot of the output of the major music industry in recent years is to blame for the brainwash. I refer to the traditional stuff and oldies to hear some great Nigerian music. Fela is as good as Afro beat gets. The neighboring African nations to Nigeria such as Cameroon, Mali, and Senegal are fore-runner in the world music scene.
TP: Your show at Frank’s Lounge https://www.frankscocktaillounge.com/ in Brooklyn will that be just yourself playing acoustic? Or will you have anyone else playing with you that evening?
KUKU: I will be performing Franks technically by myself, but the audience should come prepare to help out on backup vocals.
TP: What are some of your most memorable performances over the last few years?
KUKU: Playing in the Washington DC Jail last December and sharing with the women at Mariam’s House, Washington DC, some days ago is without the doubt the most memorable. I appreciate the high profile gigs but they don’t define or enhance my persona as an artist. I will choose playing at correctional facilities before the Grammy awards anyday.
TP: Do you only play your own material or do you cover songs from artists that have inspired you in the past?
KUKU: I play mostly my originals, but a few Bob Marley, Bill Withers, and some other favorites of mine slip in to the set list from time to time.
TP: Do you have any new projects that you have been working on with other artists?
KUKU: Yes, I have a new single out on Itunes from documentary movie about Washington DC’s Ballou High School band and their triumphant story to national glory. It’s the first release from this big buzz documentary, check out www.balloumovie.com . I also have a duet called "Jowo Malo" on Japanese JVC recording artist, Steph Pockets’ new album. I just wrapped up recording a wonderful duet with Portland Oregon based singer songwriter Keegan Smith. The song should be appearing on a album, compilation CD, or TV commercial real soon
TP: Name some Independent artists that you’ve heard that have impressed you musically?
KUKU: I’m going to be biased and mention some great artist who I’ve had the honor to know and befriend over the past years, Vinx, Monica Mcintyre, Sandbloom, PS24, Keegan Smith and Fam, Mikuak Rai, Loide, Siji. Readers please google all those names and get some good music in your life.
TP: What were the last 3 music downloads or CD purchases?
KUKU: Bob Marley- Survival, Third World-Greatest Hits, Lizz Wright-The Orchard
TP: Do you handle all of your bookings, press and marketing of your CD’s? Or do you on occasion have assistance from outside people?
KUKU: I do a lot myself mostly because I haven’t found the right help, I understand that not every one will be as passionate about my art as I am. I hope help is on the way, because I can’t do it alone.

By Tom Paul

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