Michael Kiwanuka

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Michael Kiwanuka
Kiwanuka at Haldern Pop Festival 2019
Kiwanuka at Haldern Pop Festival 2019
Background information
Birth nameMichael Samuel Kiwanuka
Born (1987-05-03) 3 May 1987 (age 34)
OriginMuswell Hill, London, England
Occupation(s)Singer-songwriter, record producer
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, bass guitar, keyboards
LabelsPolydor, Communion

Michael Samuel Kiwanuka (born 3 May 1987) is a British singer-songwriter and record producer who is signed with Polydor Records.[3] His 2012 debut album, Home Again, went gold in the United Kingdom and his second album, Love & Hate, debuted in 2016 at number one.[4] He has been nominated for numerous honours, including the Brit Awards, MTV Europe Music Awards, BBC Music Awards, and The Grammy Awards. In January 2012, he won the BBC's Sound of 2012, and in September 2020, he won the Mercury Prize.

Early life[edit]

Born and raised in Muswell Hill, London, Kiwanuka is the son of Michael and Deborah, Ugandan parents who escaped the Amin regime.[5][6] He attended Fortismere School, leaving there in 2005 after completing his A-Levels.[5] He went on to study at the School of Media, Arts and Design at the University of Westminster.[7]


Performing at the 2012 Montreux Jazz Festival

Early years[edit]

Kiwanuka worked as a session guitarist, playing with Chipmunk and Bashy before working as a solo artist.[5] His first proper gig was at The Oxford in Kentish Town at age 22.[8][9] He came to the attention of Communion Records, which released his first two EPs,[5] including his debut Tell Me A Tale on 13 June 2011.[10]

2011–2016: Home Again and Love & Hate[edit]

Kiwanuka supported Adele on her Adele Live 2011 tour, as well as at her iTunes Festival 2011 gig,[11] and played at the 2011 Hard Rock Calling.[12]

In 2011, he signed a deal with Polydor Records.[5] He was included in the BBC's Sound of 2012 poll and was named as the winner on 6 January 2012.[13] In June 2012, he was illustrated in a BBC article regarding Spain vis-à-vis Uganda during the Eurozone crisis; his putative counterpart was actress Penélope Cruz.

Kiwanuka released his debut studio album, Home Again, in 2012 to positive reviews from critics. The album peaked at number 4 in the UK and, as of 2012, has sold over 70,000 copies in the UK.[14]

After scrapping an entire second album (due to be called Night Songs) after he was discouraged by an A&R man,[15] in 2016, Kiwanuka released his follow-up to Home Again, Love & Hate. The album was a critical and commercial success, reaching a peak at number 1 on the UK albums chart. The album was produced by Danger Mouse and spawned several singles.

2018-2019: Collaborations and Kiwanuka[edit]

Michael recorded a track with UNKLE for the 2018 Roma companion album ('On My Knees'). After another collaborative song and video, this time with Tom Misch, was released in June 2019 ('Money'), his single, You Ain't the Problem preceded his third album Kiwanuka which was released in November 2019, again to further critical and commercial success. The album placed at number 2 in the UK charts, has been gold-certified for over 100,000 sales and would go on to win the UK Mercury Music Prize for 2020,[16] his first win after his first two albums which were nominated. Danger Mouse was involved with the album, along with producer Inflo. Michael has gone on record that the choice of album name reflected his increasing confidence in being himself[17]

Musical style[edit]

Kiwanuka has acknowledged influences from musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana,[18] Ray Charles, Bill Withers,[5] Otis Redding,[5] Jack Johnson, Pops Staples, The Band, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Eric Bibb, Tommy Sims, Wham!, Richie Havens and Funkadelic.[19] He has played with James Gadson, who drummed for Bill Withers.[20]

Among others, Kiwanuka’s musical style has been compared to Bill Withers and Terry Callier.[21]

Personal life[edit]

Kiwanuka is a lifelong fan of Tottenham Hotspur F.C..[22] He moved out of London to Southampton shortly before the release and promotion of his third album.[15]

Kiwanuka has openly stated he has struggled with anxiety and other mental health issues.[23]


Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Organisation Award Work Result
2011 BBC Sound of 2012[13] N/A Won
2012 Brit Awards Critics' Choice[24] N/A Nominated
Barclaycard Mercury Prize[25] Home Again
MTV Europe Music Awards Best Push Act[26] N/A
2016 Hyundai Mercury Prize[27] Love & Hate
Q Awards Best Solo Artist[28] N/A
MOBO Awards Best Album[29] Love & Hate
Best R&B / Soul Act[29] N/A
LOS40 Music Awards Critics' Award N/A Won[note 1]
BBC Music Awards Album of the Year[30] Love & Hate Nominated
2017 Brit Awards British Male Solo Artist N/A
British Album of the Year Love & Hate
Worldwide Awards Album of the Year[31] Won
HiPipo Music Awards Best Global Act
2019 Rough Trade Albums of the Year
Kiwanuka Included
BBC Radio 6 Music #3
2020 Brit Awards British Male Solo Artist N/A Nominated
British Album of the Year Kiwanuka
Hyundai Mercury Prize[34] Won
63rd Annual Grammy Awards Best Rock Album[35] Nominated


  1. ^ Bassett, Jordan. "Michael Kiwanuka interview - "Young black men can easily get into quite dangerous circles – black people know what it's like" - NME.com". Retrieved 7 November 2019.
  2. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/jul/14/michael-kiwanuka-love-hate-review[bare URL]
  3. ^ "Artists – Polydor Records". Polydor Records. 12 February 2018. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  4. ^ "Michael Kiwanuka". Forbes.com. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Doyle, Tom (2012) "The Soul Man", Mojo, February 2012, p. 68-9
  6. ^ Charlotte Richardson Andrews (5 May 2011). "First sight: Michael Kiwanuka". Theguardian.co.uk. Retrieved 20 June 2011.
  7. ^ "Alumnus tops BBC Sound of 2012 poll". Archived from the original on 23 January 2012. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
  8. ^ "Michael Kiwanuka – My Community – #SupportMusic – Sponsored By Levi's® Music Project". YouTube. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  9. ^ 29 April, Kentishtowner; 2014 (29 April 2014). "Ich Bin Kentishtowner: Michael Kiwanuka, singer-songwriter". Kentishtowner.co.uk. Retrieved 3 February 2019.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ "Introducing: Michael Kiwanuka". TwentyFourBit.com. 18 April 2011. Retrieved 20 June 2011.
  11. ^ "Agenda: Kat Maconie; Michael Kiwanuka; Limanation; Pan Am; Transform festival". The Independent. 29 May 2011. Retrieved 20 June 2011.
  12. ^ "Frankie And The Heartstrings, Michael Kiwanuka and Lissie added to Hard Rock Calling bill". Nme.com. IPC Media. 3 June 2011. Retrieved 20 June 2011.
  13. ^ a b "Sound of – 2012 – Michael Kiwanuka". BBC Music. 22 November 2011. Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  14. ^ "Charts EU Airplay Week 18 (p.32)". Music Week. 17 May 2012. Retrieved 19 May 2012.
  15. ^ a b "Michael Kiwanuka: 'I'm living my dream. And I was wasting it with thoughts of inferiority'". the Guardian. 6 October 2019. Retrieved 27 June 2021.
  16. ^ "Michael Kiwanuka wins the 2020 Hyundai Mercury Prize". www.mercuryprize.com. Retrieved 27 June 2021.
  17. ^ "Mercury Prize-winner Michael Kiwanuka: 'I am not an imposter'". BBC News. 24 September 2020. Retrieved 27 June 2021.
  18. ^ "Michael Kiwanuka is Listening to Nirvana, Isaac Hayes, and Hey Arnold!". Interview Magazine. 30 October 2019.
  19. ^ "Soundtrack: Michael Kiwanuka". Port-magazine.com. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  20. ^ "Michael Kiwanuka: Singing with his soul on his sleeve". BBC News. 16 June 2011.
  21. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/music/2019/oct/06/michael-kiwanuka-interview-love-hate-cold-little-heart
  22. ^ "Michael Kiwanuka on N17 Live on Sunday". Tottenham Hotspur F.C. 30 October 2020. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  23. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/music/2019/oct/06/michael-kiwanuka-interview-love-hate-cold-little-heart
  24. ^ Guardian Staff (12 January 2012). "Brit awards 2012: nominations in full". Theguardian.com. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  25. ^ Amy Phillips and Evan Minsker. (12 September 2012). "Mercury Prize Nominees Announced". Pitchfork.com. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  26. ^ Hardie, Beth (17 September 2012). "A total sex pot (Rihanna) and a sweet innocent lass (Taylor Swift) are going to have a fight". Mirror.co.uk. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  27. ^ "Mercury Prize 2016: David Bowie gets posthumous nomination". BBC. Retrieved 18 August 2016.
  28. ^ "StubHub Q Awards 2016 shortlist announced! Vote now to decide this year's winners". Qthemusic.com. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  29. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 23 February 2018. Retrieved 2 December 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  30. ^ "BBC Music – BBC Music Awards 2016 – The Nominees". Bbc.co.uk. 25 November 2016. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  31. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 25 January 2017. Retrieved 2 December 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  32. ^ "Albums of the Year – 2019". Rough Trade Records. Retrieved 27 November 2019.
  33. ^ "6 Music Recommends Albums Of The Year 2019". BBC Radio 6 Music. Retrieved 27 November 2019.
  34. ^ "The 2020 Hyundai Mercury Prize 'Albums of the Year'". Mercury Prize. Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  35. ^ "2021 GRAMMYs Awards Show: Complete Winners List". GRAMMY.com. 24 November 2020. Retrieved 16 March 2021.


External links[edit]