Eska (singer)

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Birth name Eska Mtungwazi
Born 1971
Origin Lewisham, London, England, United Kingdom
Genres Folk, soul, jazz
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter, producer, session musician
Instruments Vocals, guitar, violin, piano
Years active 1998–present
Labels Earthling Recordings
Associated acts The Invisible, Zero 7, The Cinematic Orchestra, Matthew Herbert

Eska Mtungwazi (born 1971), known professionally as ESKA, is a London-born British singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Following her inaugural release as a solo artist with her 2013 Gatekeeper EP, her eponymous debut album, ESKA, was released on 27 April 2015.

Early and personal life[edit]

Mtungwazi grew up in South-East London of Zimbawbwean parents who moved to the city with her and her siblings when she was two.[1] She describes her early musical exposure as "anything and everything. It was a really crazy mixture",[1] but cites Quincy Jones as being particularly influential at her young age. With the assistance of her teachers, she began learning the violin, earning herself a scholarship at The Conservatoire in Blackheath[2], while also exploring her other sonic interests such as Bob Marley.

Life and career[edit]

After gaining a BSc in Mathematics from the London School of Economics, Mtungwazi became a teacher of Maths and Music[3] During this time she spent many years as a backing singer on other musicians' projects, and steadily built a reputation in the UK for her featured work with an eclectic range of established British artists and bands,[4] including Grace Jones and Bobby McFerrin.

Following vocal credits on many independent releases throughout the 2000s, in 2013 she released her debut solo project titled Gatekeeper EP on her own Earthling Recordings label, which featured five original tracks and was co-produced by acclaimed producers Matthew Herbert and David Okumu. The EP attracted worldwide critical acclaim, including BBC Radio 6 tastemaker Gilles Peterson, who called her "one of the most important singers in the UK right now", and Jamie Cullum, who declared the EP's title song to be "an unbelievable track that will be hard to beat in 2013".[5] The title track from the EP was also selected by Peterson for his Brownswood Bubblers 10 compilation, which was released on Brownswood Recordings.[6]


Mtungwazi released her eponymous debut album ESKA on 26 April 2015.[7] ESKA was well received by critics, and was nominated for the 2015 Mercury Music Prize.[8]

Second Album[edit]

On 18 August 2016 it was announced via Billboard that ESKA would be one of 18 emerging artists to receive #Momentum funding from the PRS Foundation[9] Speaking on her selection, PRSF said "ESKA’s restless inventiveness will continue to be explored further on her sophomore album and in her live performances which have become legendary showcases for this inimitable artist.[10]




  • Gatekeeper EP (2013)


  1. ^ a b Clark, Alex, "Eska Mtungwazi: 'I deferred my life for years'", The Guardian, 8 November 2015.
  2. ^ Brown, Helen, "Eska: the finest female vocalist in the UK", The Telegraph, 15 April 2015.
  3. ^ Cornwell, Jane, "Eska interview: 'Feeling like you’re not the right size or shade gets to you'", The Evening Standard, 10 August 2016.
  4. ^ Dakarai Mashava, "Zim-born singer creates buzz in UK", Daily News, 4 November 2013.
  5. ^ "Gatekeeper EP", ESKA official site.
  6. ^ Brownswood Bubblers 10, Brownwood Recordings.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 15 March 2015. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
  8. ^ "Mercury Prize 2015 shortlist". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 16 October 2015.
  9. ^ Billboard, "PRS Foundation Selects 18 Artists for Momentum Music Fund",, 18 August 2016.
  10. ^ PRSF, "Momentum: ESKA", "PRS Foundation", 19 August 2016.

External links[edit]