Kwamie Liv is the Zambian-Danish, singer-songwriter who lives a free spirited life of travel; sharing experiences that seep seamlessly into her beautiful storytelling. Thandie Sibanda catches up with Kwamie as the pair question the meaning behind her powerful songwriting, along with finding out just what art and music means to her - there's even talk of a new album.
Thandie Sibanda: What genre do you believe your music belongs in?
Kwamie Liv: The whole idea of genre is something that I don’t spend too much time thinking about. It’s interesting and important in so far as understanding where things are coming from, but regarding my own creativity, I find it limiting. The step between sitting with my guitar and going into the studio and producing an electronic universe is such a short one for me. There are countless forms of expression that I enjoy, and I aspire to be able to move between them seamlessly, hoping that ultimately what ties it all together is me, my voice.
TS: Do you incorporate your Zambian heritage into your music?
KL: I am my heritage. I am a Zambian-Danish artist who has spent my whole life living in different countries around the world, trying to understand the meaning of home. Everything I do carries that with it on some level, there's no separation.
TS What inspires your sound when writing?
KL: The real draw for me has always been stories and storytelling. I've been telling stories for as long as I could remember. At its core it’s my observation of life, both the life that I live, but also the lives that I hear about and see around me. One thing that has always stood out to me very clearly is how no matter where you go, there are these main themes that everyone can relate to; love, loss, hope, desire, dreams, wanting to express oneself freely etc. Somewhere within that, what makes art and music so appealing to me is how it has the power to truly connect. It is the ultimate mirror of the human experience.
TS: Talk me through the themes explored in your song '17'?
KL: It’s created in a bittersweet nostalgia of time passing and things changing, something gained, something lost. Writing it was very much looking back at that period right before you become an adult. You’re still relatively innocent, the world feels open to you, you're growing. There's something about that time that, at least for me, that was so full of searching. There's a certain bravery, probably because you're still learning so much as you go.
TS: What was the idea behind the songs visuals?
K.L: The original idea was to make a lyric video but then Baby Duka, the animator, and I sat down to begin and this happened.
TS: It begins with this couple and they're up on a roof. And then a red dot appears on this man's chest. And he’s shot...
KS: What do you think?
Thandie: I'm thinking in the light of 2020 this is a video on police brutality.
KS: What was your feeling? Did you have any questions?
Whether they're family, friends or lovers, or however way we choose to see it, they are two unarmed people enjoying a beautiful sky together. How does it in any way make sense that at the end of everything one of them ends up getting shot? Who are they? What’s really going on here? Could they be just anyone? To me if you watch that video and you're asking yourself “why”, if it doesn’t make sense to you, then you get it, then we're asking ourselves the same question and that question is urgent and much bigger than that video.
TS: What’s Next?
K.L: I'm currently working on my next album. It's very much for me about locking myself away in the studio these days and letting it flow, not overthinking things, keeping it moving. I’ve spent a lot of the last year observing. These are intense times for all of us, I haven’t always been able to access my creativity in the midst of it all. I usually say “50% for living and 50% for writing about living." It feels good to be back in creative mode, I’m excited to see what comes of it all.
TS: In three words who is Kwamie?
K.L: Imagination is key.
TS: What would you like our readers to conclude after listening to your music?
K.L: One of my favorite things about music is how free it is. Once you release it, it takes on a life of its own that you can’t predict. I love that. Fundamentally, my deepest hope for my music is for it to travel, to reach as many people that might find it useful as possible, and for them to carry it with them and make it their own. It’s all about connection.