Michael Kiwanuka

Don't let the name throw you: Although Michael Kiwanuka's parents are from Uganda, he grew up in the north of London and didn't parlay his folks' background into a career in world music. Instead, he came up hearing various forms of music that inspired him, especially folk and soul. Kiwanuka's gentle cadence and delicate but emotionally vibrant phrasing have drawn immediate comparisons to Bill Withers. But it wouldn't come as a surprise to find that he has also listened closely to Nick Drake, Fairport Convention and Bob Dylan. Kiwanuka's musical voice isn't one that needs to hit you over the head with its passionate intensity in predictable moments. Rather, like Otis Redding, who was one of his early inspirations, he's able to express perfect emotional nuance with taste and sincerity.

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